14 Декабря 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 825

November 27, 2017


12th Congress elects documentary film maker Vladimir Solovyov new chairman of Russian Union of Journalists

The Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) held its 12th Congress on 25 November 2017. Some 700 delegates from all regions of the country attended the forum.

RUJ Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov noted in his speech certain RUJ achievements over the past years, saying that the Union was optimistic and hopeful about its future.

Chairman of State Duma (lower house of the Russian parliament) committee for information policy, IT and communications, RUJ Secretary Leonid Levin said that the Russian Union of Journalists was a vigorous participant in all initiatives in this sector.

“Many laws regulating the mass media are actually submitted after consultations with the RUJ leadership that also involve experts well-versed in the specifics of the issues addressed by the initiatives,” Levin said. The organisation is hoping for pro-active participation of its regional branches in lawmaking because it is the regional media that need close attention at present due to their financial position, he added.

The Congress, fulfilling a forum agenda item, approved a new edition of the RUJ Charter.

The key event at the Congress was the election of RUJ governing bodies. Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov stepped down saying he would not seek re-election. The Congress elected him Honorary RUJ Chairman. Documentary film maker Vladimir Solovyov was elected RUJ chairman in accordance with RUJ Charter Item 5.4.5. The delegates voted 680 - 1 for Solovyov with seven abstentions.

The chairman offered to induct a new person into the Secretariat, journalist and media expert Yulia Zagitova.

A majority of delegates approved a new RUJ Secretariat comprising Alexander Belonovsky, Yelena Vartanova, Rafael Guseinov, Ashot Dzhazoyan, Yulia Zagitova, Ali Kamalov, Vladimir Kasyutin, Anatoly Kuzichev, Leonid Levin, Yulia Lozhechko, Andrei Medvedev, Tatyana Metelkina, Yevgeny Primakov, Boris Reznik, Vadim Rogozhkin, Roman Serebryaniy, Anton Stulikov, Denis Tokarskiy, Vyacheslav Umanovsky, Mikhail Fedotov, Irina Tsvetkova, Natalia Chernyshova, and Timur Shafir.

[Based on RUJ reports, 25 November]


Yaroslavl action in memory of murdered transgender people hears threats not only against LGBT community activists but also against journalists

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

An action in memory of the transgender people murdered in hate crimes was held by Yaroslavl's LGBT community on 20 November. As LGBT activists staged single-person pickets by the monument to theatre artist and developer Fyodor Volkov, a group of patriotic youths arrived at the scene, including representatives of the Sober Yaroslavl movement.

The “defenders of the morals” shouted insults and tried to attack the pickets. The action was covered by 7x7 Horizontal Russia portal journalists. At one point, threats were voiced against the journalists. LGBT opponents threatened to smash videographer Alexander Stepanov's camera and then began to throw eggs at both mass media representatives and LGBT activists.

The police who were at the scene took no action.

Business company in Voronezh claims a million roubles from newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A libel suit has been filed following the publication of a story about the ecological situation in a Voronezh Region district.

The Voronezh Region Arbitration Court is hearing a libel case against the publisher of the Semilukskiy Vestnik, an independent district newspaper. The plaintiff, Nika Petrotek JSC, demands disclaimer of the disseminated information about its company and one million roubles in damages from the newspaper Vestnik.

The legal action was filed after the newspaper published its story titled “Close Your Gate to Trouble” in October 2016. It said that a plant owned by the plaintiff company was contaminating the environment and causing harm to local residents' health. The organisation's representatives said that it was not true and that the story put Nika Petrotek in a “bad light”.

The parties are now negotiating the terms of the story's linguistic expert examination on which the plaintiff's lawyer is insisting. The next hearing is scheduled for 2 December. The defendant's interests are represented by Media Rights Defence Centre lawyers.

Sibir Realii news website in Siberia may be added to foreign agent list

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Russian Justice Ministry notified the editorial office of Sibir Realii, a recently established news portal, about “possible restrictions”. The Ministry did not elaborate; it only warned the founders of the project that it might be recognised as a foreign agent. Earlier, similar notifications were sent to Radio Liberty which had founded the websites Sibir Realii and Idel Realii and the Nastoyashcheye Vremya (Present Time) television channel.

On 15 November, the State Duma approved the 2nd and 3rd readings of the amendment to the law on foreign-agent media which provides for recognising as foreign agents the legal entities registered outside Russia and unincorporated organisations funded from abroad.

Yulia Muchnik is editor-in-chief of the new online media outlet. Earlier, she hosted the TV2 television company's socio-political programmes. The authorities did not resort to “recognising it as a foreign agent” when liquidating the company - there was no plausible legal ground for that; its broadcasting was cut off after a sudden failure of the feed line connecting the transmitter with the antenna. On top of that, the television company's relationship worsened with the RTRS monopoly-holding enterprise which was in no hurry to repair the feeder. Eventually, RTRS unilaterally cancelled the broadcasting contract (see digest 793).

Apparently the State Duma-approved amendment will make it easier for the authorities to impose restrictions on unwelcome mass media without resorting to complex scenarios.

Sibir Realii covers the life of residents of Siberia and the Far East presenting an objective picture without embellishing or overdramatizing it; otherwise it could hardly aspire to claim the attention of a broad audience. Realii presents a trustworthy image of life in Siberia.

Responding to the Justice Ministry's notification, Radio Liberty published a statement noting that the corporation's objective was to provide true and objective information for the audience in different parts of the world including Russia. The company said it had no plans to adjust its editorial policy.


Mayoral official in Magadan suspected of putting pressure on media

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The special cases office of the Investigative Committee's branch for the Magadan Region has initiated criminal proceedings against Magadan Town Hall information policy department director Oleg Dudnik. The investigators said the suspect who was a local self-rule body official responsible for information and analytical support of the Magadan mayor and his office, acting in violation of the bans imposed on municipal officials by a number of federal laws, actually ran a commercial television and radio broadcasting company in the period from January 2016 through May 2017.

Searches at Magadan Town Hall, Dudnik's apartment, and the commercial organisation he controlled have been carried out as part of the probe. Documents of evidential value have been retrieved. Witnesses have been questioned and actions taken toward gathering a body of evidence. The suspect read the resolution on opening of criminal proceedings against him but refused to give testimony.

Russian Criminal Code Article 289 carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison for the offence Dudnik was accused of.

Oleg Dudnik is a regular “protagonist” of GDF digests. The short period of his tenure was devastating for the local journalistic community. Twitter user Natalia Alexeyeva, who had taken part in discussing his rumoured involvement in corruption became the first victim. Although several persons had taken part in the discussion, the touchy official filed a defamation suit against Alexeyeva alone, knowing that she was a journalist. The court ordered Natalia to pay damages to Dudnik; the sum was considerable for the defendant: the Argumenty i Fakty office made her redundant in the course of the litigation and she was unable to land another job at the time (see digest 761).

Next, Magadan MTK television company editorial director Vyacheslav Filogriyevsky was fired. MTK staff complained about regular wage arrears to prosecutors and the City Duma, pointing out that the Magadan information policy chief was de facto owner of television channels and the Karibu radio holding and that these commercial media outlets had won multi-million-rouble contracts to cover the activity of Magadan local self-governments. For some reason, the MTK municipal television channel which has financial problems is not bidding for the subsidies to give publicity to the authorities' work (see digest 807).

It was because of these financial problems that channel director Lyudmila Malysheva, invited from Moscow to head MTK, had to resign. Filogriyevsky and Malysheva were the first to sign the MTK staff's complaint to the prosecutors.

Note that the above journalists suffered for voicing doubts about the official who is currently designated by the authorities as a real suspect.

The Vesma news agency has reported one meaningful detail: none of the Magadan television channels broke the news about the Dudnik probe since 21 November when the prosecutor's office placed information on the case on its website. Nor did any comment on the searches carried out by police come from the channels' editors-in-chief, Public Chamber members, Town Hall representatives, or the mayor. The journalists themselves were afraid to comment on the news in social media. Vesma said it could not forget that Alexeyeva's colleagues took part in the court hearings siding with the official instead of standing up for their co-worker.

Amid this collusion of silence, Vesma reminded the journalists about some of their rights citing articles from the mass media law, the Criminal Code, the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights.

GDF will monitor the investigation into the criminal case.

Newspaper stalls growing fewer all across Russia

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Association of Press Distributors has prepared an annual survey of the regions by the number of newsagents. The study is based on data from 85 Russian Federation regions and assesses the availability of newspaper-selling outlets for the population. It takes into account the number of newspaper stalls and press pavilions in a given Russian region and matches them to the norms designated in Communications Ministry Decree No.197 and Russian Government Resolution No 291.

The survey noted a decrease of the number of newsagents across the whole country. The Chelyabinsk Region, which ranked 2nd in 2016, slipped to the 5th place this year, while the Kaliningrad Region held onto the first place.

Russia's top ten regions in terms of newsagents' availability are the Kaliningrad Region, the Altai Republic, the Republic of Buryatia, the Voronezh Region, the Chelyabinsk Region, the Arkhangelsk Region, the Tula Region, the Penza Region, the Khabarovsk Region, and the Lipetsk Region. St. Petersburg and Moscow were placed 11th and 16th, respectively. The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region showed the best result among the northern territories. The Chukotka Autonomous Region has no newspaper stalls at all.

The Voronezh Region was the best in the Central Federal District, the Republic of Crimea in the Southern Federal District, the Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals Federal District, the Republic of Buryatia in the Siberian Federal District, the Republic of Mary-El in the Volga Federal District, and the Khabarovsk Region in the Far Eastern Federal District. The Republic of North Ossetia- Alania posted the worst results in the North Caucasian Federal District as it failed to meet the federal requirements for the availability of newsagents.

Overall, 46 Russian regions did not meet the government norms, including the Rostov Region. It certainly impacts the financial position of print media, especially regional outlets and the so-called “quality press” addressing socio-political issues. A lion's share of the newsagents, surveyed by the Association, are yellow-press distributors supporting the demand for easy reading. Many editorial offices have to set up alternative distribution networks as the Rospechat state-owned press-distribution agency offers them absolutely disadvantageous terms.

The situation with the availability of newsagents is still worse in Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Tatarstan, the Adygei Republic, the Kurgan, Bryansk and Tambov Regions, and the Jewish Autonomous Region.

In the Kaliningrad Region, there is one newsagent per 3,653 residents, in the Yaroslavl Region one per 6,517 residents, and in the Rostov Region one per 8,908 residents. The stark contrasts might prompt more extensive research into the causes and consequences of the dramatic decrease in the number of newspaper stalls in provincial Russia.

Petrozavodsk administration saves money on its own press service

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

Until recently, the Petrozavodsk administration's interaction with the outside world was handled by the information and analytical department comprising the press service and the office for Town Hall information and technical support. To economise, the mayor's office decided to shut down its press service which only employed three persons. The restructuring was expected to save 748,400 roubles' worth of payroll budget money.

Meanwhile, the press service employees except the fired director have kept their jobs as they are to be transferred to the analytical department. The press service job cuts were just part of the Town Hall redundancy plan: overall, 32 staffers have been laid off, which is expected to save some seven million roubles.

It is unclear how the information service restructuring might affect the performance of the Petrozavodsk administration; earlier, failures repeatedly occurred in the operation of the E-government portal, leaving Petrozavodsk residents unable to place their complaints or recommendations for weeks on end. In the eyes of the local population, this turned the transparency and availability of the authorities, declared by the town administration, into mockery.

Logic suggests that the authorities should not allow their budget-saving measures to shut them off from the townsfolk. Petrozavodsk budget allocates 12,256,000 roubles for the coverage of municipal authorities' work, including 1.6 million roubles for the information support of Petrozavodsk's Town Hall and Town Council.

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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 Monitring 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 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
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