23 Августа 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 579

20 August 2012


Rosprirodnadzor filters information

The RF Federal Law “On State Secrets” specifies the categories of information to be classified in this country. Not all, though, seem to find it all-embracing. For example, Vladimir Kirillov, head of Rosprirodnadzor [federal agency overseeing nature management], has attempted to “improve” this law by extending its list of classified information categories so as to include information on emergency situations and ecological disasters.

The newspaper Izvestia on 15 August cited Rosprirodnadzor’s head as saying that an ad hoc commission is being established at his initiative to check, independently of the agency’s press service, the content of all journalistic inquiries and all information releases for the press. Moreover, Rosprirodnadzor officials will be prohibited to comment on their agency’s activities.

Kirillov’s initiative was also detailed in same-day reports by Vesti FM, with reference to unofficial sources.

Rosprirodnadzor explained its decision to restrict access to information about its performance by a desire “to prevent panic” in emergency situations. As an illustration, it cited (panic-sowing) media reports about thousands of tonnes of oil products annually dumped into the Arctic Ocean via northern rivers, and about the recent tragedy – high flood – in Krymsk.

One may only wonder if hushing up information would be better. Lack of information gives rise to rumours and gossips resulting in exactly the kind of situations that Rosprirodnadzor’s leadership claims to be seeking to avoid: without information, panic spreads faster.

Generally, government agencies have always been reluctant to provide information to the press. They typically require journalists to file written inquiries first, which then will be studied for several days before an official – often uninformative and purely formal – written reply is sent back. All this takes time, and even if a media outlet does get some kind of reply in the end, it is likely to be belated and no longer relevant. If the Rosprirodnadzor initiative were translated into life, replying to journalists’ inquiries might be delayed indefinitely if the ad hoc commission’s analysts chose to label some or other data “a state secret”.

By the way, withholding important ecological information is against the law; also, it is unclear how they would measure the degree of secrecy.

In view of this, the Glasnost Defence Foundation has sent RF General Prosecutor Yuri Chaika a message reading as follows:

“Dear Mr General Prosecutor:

“The print and online media are seriously concerned over the web-circulated reports about Rosprirodnadzor’s newly-adopted forms of work with the press that reduce actually to naught the opportunities for journalists to receive information about ‘burning’ ecological problems facing Russia. The agency’s installing an additional information filter in the form of an ad hoc commission charged with preventing information leaks via its officials or press service strikes the public as a flawed initiative that is clearly at odds with existing regulations on how to gather and disseminate information.

“The Glasnost Defence Foundation hereby urges you to check things up and bring Rosprirodnadzor’s information-sharing procedures in line with Russian legislation.


“Alexei Simonov,

GDF President;

Member of RF Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights Development”



Eroded dams reveal lack of early warning systems for Karelia residents

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The recent emergency situation in Karelia’s north, where heavy rainfall resulted in several population centres flooded, revealed the absence of media systems to warn residents about potential emergencies. As established in the course of investigation, the federal and local authorities, although duly notified of the impending disaster (with the water reservoir dams eroded by the rainfall, several localities were certain to be flooded), were unable to communicate that information to the local population.

In the afflicted districts, there are no media resources to give early warnings to residents. Local newspapers are released once a week; local radio stations have long since been liquidated; and republican television is technically inaccessible to people in some localities. The Internet is not available at all, and even if it were, using web technology would have been impossible because of the flood-related blackout.

As a result, upon learning about the half-destroyed dams and the swollen rivers streaming down into the valley, administration officials were compelled to go round the places where the roads were still ridable, to individually warn residents about the flood. Preliminary estimates put the damage suffered by the Kemsky district at more than 9 million roubles, and by the Belomorsky district, at only 460,000 roubles, due to the regulated discharge of overflow water from the reservoir during the disaster.

A recent government conference in Karelia that summed up the results of the emergency situation ordered the development of a model system to warn residents about impending emergencies.

Crew of TV reporters attacked, not allowed to shoot TV story in Moscow Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A crew of Solnechnogorsk TV Company reporters was attacked while fulfilling an editorial assignment in the village of Rekino-Kresty near Moscow late on 14 August.

The journalists were shooting a report about a construction project started amid a park that local residents had laid out in memory of the victims of World War II.

A jeep pulled over shortly, and a man came up to the reporters to demand that they switch off their camera. First, he threatened them with violence, then tore away and broke the camera, supported by a group of building workers armed with iron bars.

A police patrol arrived soon enough to detain the attacker. He turned out to be the construction project’s head manager, according to preliminary reports by Zelenograd InformPortal with reference to the Solnechnogorsk TV Company.

The latter’s chief editor, Vladimir Yakovlev, said in an interview for Podmoskovye TV Channel that the detained attacker had been questioned by the police and “indicated he was willing to seek an amicable settlement and compensate the journalists for the damage to their apparatus”.

Meanwhile, the police are deciding whether or not to start criminal proceedings in connection with the attack.

It may as well be noted that Solnechnogorsk journalists have repeatedly inquired the city administration about the construction underway in the city park, but have never got any reply.

Attacked woman journalist accused of “beating” security guard in Krasnodar Region

By Natalia Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Hearings of a criminal case against Caucasian Knot news agency correspondent Svetlana Kravchenko are to start this week, handled by a newly-appointed judge of the peace at Court Precinct No.103 in the Central district of Sochi. The lady journalist is facing charges under Article 116.1 of the RF Criminal Code: security guard Vladimir Krivosheyev of the REGION-3 private security company complained that she “beat” him (an offence punishable by a fine, or correctional labour, or arrest for up to three months).

The previous judge, Aleksandr Skorokhodov, declined on 7 August to accept the case because of “the defendant’s allegations that I may be interested in a certain outcome of the trial” and “to rule out any claims that the sentence I am to pass is biased”.

The conflict between Kravchenko and Krivosheyev flared up on 8 December 2011 at the client service department of the ABVK-Sochi water supply company, where the journalist came over to ask the company management to comment on her November publication “Over 100 Sochi Residents Stay Without Water Supply”. Angry tenants of housing in two streets of Sochi, left without water supply for more than two weeks, wanted to know why utility service providers were claiming big money from them for solving the problem. Kravchenko at once told department head Elvira Safronova she would record her comments using a video camera.

The subsequent developments were similar to those in a Hollywood action movie: claiming that the company premises were “a specially guarded area”, the lady official called ten (sic!) security guards who sealed off the exit and attempted to confiscate the journalist’s camera. Krivosheyev tore away the camera from her, and when she felt sick in the stuffy office and asked to let her out, the guards refused to and continued detaining her by force. Finally, Kravchenko, accompanied by two eyewitnesses of the incident, was rushed by an ambulance to a hospital to get medical assistance. Shortly afterward, Krivosheyev filed a report with the police saying that the lady journalist had “beaten” him – or, to be more exact, had left two scratches (2 by 4mm and 3 by 3 mm) on his left ear, as confirmed by forensic medics.

Kravchenko says she is appalled by the “selective approach” taken by the law enforcers, who have totally ignored her own complaint to the police (filed as early as last December) about Krivosheyev’s attack on her, signalling an instance of security guard and water company management interference with her lawful journalistic activity – an offence punishable under Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code.

Blogger wins case in court against administration official in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The regional court in Perm has rejected an appeal by Perm Mayor Anatoly Makhovikov against a primary court’s turning down his honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged against Andrei Agishev, a former regional MP turned opposition blogger.

After the start of mayoral elections in Perm on 29 March, Agishev (still an MP at the time) posted two critical articles – dated 31 March and 4 April – in his web blog, causing Makhovikov (then a deputy mayor running for mayor) to frown. The phrases he found “smearing” included the following:

  • “The actual owners of TRANK Ltd. … are the two above-mentioned persons, Anatoly Makhovikov and Andrei Yaroslavtsev”;
  • “Oh yes, this land plot is a very sweet piece of pie. Earlier, it was leased by groups reputed to be close to ex-Mayor I. Shubin; but exes are exes, you know… So a new lessee – a group said to be close to the incumbent city administrators – appeared in December 2010”;
  • “TRANK Ltd., which leased out this municipal land plot in December 2010, did not emerge yesterday, nor even in 2010. The company has an impressive history which from the outset has been inseparable from A. Makhovikov’s personality”;
  • “The city managers had kept a low profile until the strategically important land plot was auctioned off; they then resold their limited-liability company and pocketed a nice profit”; and
  • “You, (Oleg Anatolyevich), are recommending Makhovikov for mayor – against the backdrop of all those appalling facts. Don’t you think it’s a shame to start building a new city of Perm from machinations?”

Makhovikov lodged a legal claim against Agishev, demanding a disclaimer and apology in the Internet, plus 10,000 roubles in moral damages. He ordered, and paid for, a forensic linguistic study; the defendant hired an independent linguist to study his publications and present his expert conclusions.

Leninsky District Court Judge Olga Buzmakova on 16 April 2012 decided that the blogger had only expressed his opinion about a public official’s performance; she turned Makhovikov’s legal claim down. His attempt to challenge that decision failed: the regional court rejected his appeal on 15 August, taking into account the conclusions by Agishev’s linguistic expert that the “jocular and ironic colouring” of the author’s statements “deprived these of their literal affirmative meaning”.



Officials leave reporters’ inquiries unanswered in Maritime Region

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Officials in the Maritime Region have habitually turned a deaf ear to criticism, warning signals and other expressions of public anger in the media; they also have ignored instructions – even those from Moscow – to look closely at some conflict or other and take due measures of response.

Here is a story reported to the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV) by Aleksandra Nabokova, leader of the regional public movement “Guardians of Law”.

After miners’ shares in the Dalpolimetall metal works vanished without a trace, the frustrated shareholders complained to AV, and Nabokova, upon checking the facts, published two critical stories, “Prominent MP Deceives Fellow-Townsmen” and “Where Are the Shares?”, which were then sent to Moscow for Investigative Committee Chairman A. Bastrykin to look into the matter closely. A reply came, saying the articles had been forwarded to the General Prosecutor’s Office for scrutiny, and from there – to the Maritime Prosecutor’s Office, and further to A. Yerzikov, a junior counsellor with the prosecutor’s office of Dalnogorsk, who finally turned Nabokova’s “protest against the closure of Criminal Case No. 321204” down.

AV followed up with the article “Criminal Case 321204 Closed”, providing details about the criminal proceedings started on 13 February 2008 by the Dalnogorsk police against a group of fraudsters who had allegedly stolen the Dalpolimetall shares. In July 2009, an investigator at the Maritime Investigative Committee terminated the proceedings in view “of no event of crime” found. On 11 November 2010, the case files were forwarded to Police Maj.-Gen. A.V. Khorev, deputy chief of the Economic Security Department at Russia’s Interior Ministry, only to vanish somewhere on the shelves in the high law enforcement offices…

Prosecutors and their deputies at the republican, regional, city and district levels; Investigative Committee and Interior Ministry departments; generals and investigators – they are really innumerable! So many people in shoulder straps and with high salaries – and no progress whatsoever over the years… Newspaper articles and glasnost have not helped, and are not helping still. Such cases are numerous, journalists say. What is it that we are talking about? Glasnost? Our desperate efforts to make the authorities pay heed to what we are saying? Or the irresponsibility of those who are in charge?



Journalists’ Union, Moscow Conservatoire to stage charity concert

On 8 September, which is International Journalists’ Solidarity Day, the Secretariat of the RF Journalists’ Union and the Moscow State Conservatoire will stage a concert at the Conservatoire’s Grand Hall at 13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St. in memory of the journalists who died performing their duty.

Taking part in the concert will be the “New Russia” State Symphony Orchestra directed by Yuri Bashmet (conductor – Anatoly Levin; soloists – Yekaterina Derzhavina and Alexei Volodin); and prose writer and poet Dmitry Bykov.

The orchestra will play Symphony No.5 by D. Shostakovich and Mozart’s Concerto for Two Claviers; and excerpts from Bykov’s poems “A Chilly Day’s Warm Night” and “The Twelfth Ballad” will be recited.

The concert begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets can be booked until 20 August in the booking office at 11/13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St.; after 20 August – in the Grand Hall’s booking office at 13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St. (admittance through the Grand Hall’s private entrance).

All the proceeds from the concert will be directed in support of murdered journalists’ families.

Contact phones: (+7 495) 637 2395, (+7 495) 637 2260



The Glasnost Defence Foundation has received a message from the Ufa-based newspaper Bonus, reading as follows:

“Some unhealthy trends have made themselves felt in Bashkortostan’s media sector lately. Contrary to the course toward glasnost and openness, proclaimed by the republic’s head Rustem Khamitov when coming into power two years ago, there is evidence of his administration’s technical services effectively blocking the operation of critically-minded online media, such as RBINFORM.ru, Journalufa.com, Poliufa.blogpost.com and others, of which they have complained to law enforcement.

“The Bonus newspaper and the ProUfu.ru web portal are among the few media feeling free to criticise the republic’s leadership. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves under increasingly strong pressure in the past few months, and seen repeated attempts by the authorities to interfere with the work of our two media outlets which are officially registered as such in line with effective Russian legislation.

“1. Our partners and advertisers have been pressured hard. The republican television channel BST has been forbidden to place our ads or place its ads in our media, in violation of existing co-operation agreements. The Sputnik-FM and BFM-Ufa radio stations have been prohibited to refer to our portal. On orders from the district administrations, our advertising banners have been torn down from buildings throughout the city.

2. On instructions from higher-standing authorities, utility service providers have picked out our newspaper issues from the readers’ mailboxes.

3. In violation of effective legislation, the presidential press service has blocked our access to, and hampered our circulation of, information. It has denied our reporter Ramil Rakhmatov accreditation at open official events organised by Bashkortostan’s President and Government without any explanation at all or on faked-up pretexts like a shortage of seats in the conference room at the government headquarters.

4. After R. Rakhmatov came to work for our newspaper and has written this summer a series of stories that struck the presidential press service as ‘wrong’, his mother A. Rakhmatova, a long-time and merited chief spokeswoman for the republic’s Health Ministry, was forced to resign. Prior to that, administration officials had repeatedly expressed disapproval of her son’s journalistic activities, and the last warning phone call had been from Chief Presidential Spokesman Artyom Valiyev.

“Dear colleagues, we hereby ask for your legal support, since we are determined to defend our principles and our policy concept to the end.”


This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни