30 Мая 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 662

26 May 2014



Regional Press Institute under pressure in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

During the short working week before Victory Day (9 May), prosecutor’s office representatives paid visits to several prominent human rights organisations based in St. Petersburg, among them the Regional Press Institute (RPI), requiring for inspection their reporting documentation for the period since 2012.

The purpose of the visit to RPI was to check whether the institute engaged in “political activity”, as the prosecutors might have thought after a recent seminar for journalists on the coverage of the poorly-performing housing and communal service sector, RPI director Anna Sharogradskaya told the GDF. Significantly enough, RPI – an organisation known for its work toward freedom of information in a more open society – was already inspected by the district prosecutor’s office last year. It seems law enforcement has nothing else to do, as if the people’s rights were already effectively protected and all the other social problems were solved.

It was hardly by a coincidence that another government agency – the Ministry of Emergency Situations – started inspecting RPI fire safety systems only a week later. By all means, preventing a fire in the business centre where RPI leases a few offices is a noble goal; it is strange, though, that this unplanned inspection did not affect any of the other lessees. The institute moved into the business centre building a few years ago, after the city administration ejected it from the House of Journalists in Nevsky Prospekt with the regional Journalists’ Union’s connivance (for details, see digest 391).

Clearly, the Regional Press Institute, along with other truly independent human rights organisations, is being pressured by the authorities into either shutting down or keeping a low profile. What is important, this pressure campaign is financed from the state budget, which means it’s we taxpayers who are paying for it. Fellow journalists’ silence is meaningful, too: no one except two or three opposition (i.e., independent) media is protesting against this targeting of RPI – an organisation that has always provided the venue for an open dialogue between society and the media community.



Opposition journalists on trial in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region

Ирина Гундарева, собственный корреспондент ФЗГ в Уральском федеральном округе

Journalist Valery Uskov is standing trial in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region.

It all began with two opposition journalists, Valery Uskov and Vyacheslav Baidariko, getting an SMS message naming the place where “sensational revelations about Zlatoust Mayor Vyacheslav Zhilin” allegedly lay waiting for them. The reporters rushed after the sensation – only to be caught opening a parcel that turned out to contain some odd, old pieces of ammunition. That gave rise to charges of illegal keeping of weapons brought against them under Criminal Code Article 222.

Quite some time later, one trade union activist suddenly “remembered” having received threats from one of the journalists. As a result, Uskov, who is also leader of the People of Steel public movement, was additionally charged with “murder threats” under Article 119.


Perceived as a “very dangerous criminal”, Uskov has been kept under arrest ever since, and the term of his stay in detention was recently extended until 5 June. Generally, accusing journalists of illegal handling of arms has become a widespread practice lately (for example, similar charges were brought against Life News reporters in Ukraine a few days ago).

People of Steel activists see both criminal cases against Uskov as those based on trumped-up charges, and as an act of vengeance by the authorities for the movement-organised rallies, picketing actions, and repeated calls for different public officials to resign. Moreover, Mayor Zhilin has long bore a grudge against Uskov for his criticism of the authorities. By the way, he has refrained from commenting on the ongoing trial, and the trade union activist – the alleged victim – has been refusing to undergo a polygraph test to check the validity of his testimony.

Uskov, in contrast, has been pressing for such a test but has been denied to opportunity to take it, which the opposition journalist sees as a sure sign that the charges against him were concocted. The whereabouts of the man who called the two reporters on the phone inviting them to come for the “sensational” material are unknown – and this despite the fact that Uskov duly reported to law enforcement the name and telephone number of the man who had lured him and his colleague into a trap (see digest 637).

Attempts to shut down one of Russia’s best TV stations raise a wave of civic protests in Tomsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The potential closure of the television channel TV2 has awakened Tomsk residents to civic action. The channel has remained inoperative since 19 April, because of the TV tower’s burned-out feeder which the Radio/TV Transmitting Centre (RTTC) has been in no hurry to repair citing some “technical problems”. Finally, it was announced earlier this month that broadcasting would restart on 15 June.

Yet on 15 May, as one of Russia’s best television companies was marking its 23rd anniversary, the media watchdog Roskomnadzor pledged to suspend the channel’s broadcasting license unless it resumed operation within 5 days’ time. As it happened, two government agencies, apparently acting independently of each other (or rather, having secretly coordinated their actions), created all the prerequisites for having TV2 liquidated.

More than 1,300 Tomsk residents have signed an appeal in support of the channel, due to be handed to Governor Sergei Zhvachkin on 28 May. Most signatures were gathered in the course of picketing actions, each attracting from several hundred to a thousand activists; protests of such a big scale had not been seen in the city for more than two years, since the rallies calling for fair elections. The channel’s staff had not expected so many people to take to the streets to express solidarity with their company, TV2 anchorwoman Yulia Muchnik told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. “It turns out there’s a civil society in Tomsk,” she said. “I was happy to see so many young faces among the picketers.”

Students and the faculty of Tomsk University’s school of journalism have sent a separate appeal to the governor.

All those actions disprove the stereotypical view that after the defeat of the White Ribbons [pro-democracy] movement, Russian intellectuals, especially in the provinces, have succumbed to apathy. True, people are tired of protest rallies, of politics in general, since they feel their participation does not change anything in this country, and voter turnout is unprecedentedly low for the very same reason: people are unable to influence the election returns. But when they are denied their last right to know the truth, and when people feel they can make a difference, if only in a small way, then they rise up to defend their position. A group of activists that initiated the picketing actions in Tomsk (which does not involve any TV2 staffers, by the way) has appealed to the mayor’s office for authorisation to hold a rally.

It was supported by the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union; some prominent media figures, among them TV Academy member Vladimir Posner; and RF Human Rights Ombudswoman Ella Pamfilova, who asked the General Prosecutor’s Office to check the legality of Roskomnadzor’s ultimatum to TV2.

It seems the “liquidators” decided to retreat: RTTC announced a few days ago it had got busy repairing the station’s feeder and was planning to complete the work as early as possible. Another good sign is the recent arrival in Tomsk of Natalia Kostenko, head of the Centre for Legal Assistance to Journalists and a member of the All-Russia Popular Front’s central board, to look into the situation around TV2. The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Tomsk.

Regional court in Omsk confirms district court ruling on police claim against blogger

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

An appellate panel of judges of the Omsk Region court has confirmed a district court decision regarding a police claim against Sergei Selivanov, a blogger and leader of the For Our Rights public movement. As we have reported (see digest 651), the district court awarded the plaintiff 23,000 roubles in reputational damages and required the blogger to disclaim not only his personal judgments about the regional police department’s performance but also other people’s opinions cited in his blog, specifically that of Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman, who said, “No drug trade is ever possible without police protection.”


All those blog postings were related to last November’s murder in Omsk of Ivan Klimov, a member of the national boxing team, who was killed in broad daylight by two surgically precise knife stabs delivered, as investigators and the general public agree, by a hired professional. Prior to the murder, the boxer had had a night-club conflict with Ian Lebedov, son of a local “Gypsy drug baron” (as he is often dubbed in the media). Security camera video sequences, posted on many websites, showed a man looking like Lebedov, in the presence of numerous witnesses, shooting at Klimov from a 10-metre distance from a traumatic rifle, inflicting grave bodily harm, and then leaving the place to vanish from law enforcement’s field of view altogether. Although putting him on the wanted list, the police did not seem to bother much looking for Lebedov: the runaway man appeared almost daily on his web page in the VKontakte social network, where his cell phone number was displayed for everyone to see.

Klimov had survived that time and, after a hospital course of rehabilitation, was planning to continue his boxing career, but the two fatal stabs upset his plans. Selivanov’s hint at police’s likely implication in the boxer’s killing – a suggestion vigorously denied by the plaintiff – was based on information received from a trustworthy source within law enforcement, the blogger said.

During a hearing the defendant suddenly felt sick, but Judge Chekurda did not find that to be a reason for interrupting the court sitting. An ambulance arrived, diagnosing Selivanov as having a hypertension stroke. Even that did not deter the judge from continuing the case hearings the following morning and from passing a decision in the absence of the defendant, who was clearly having health problems.

All those legal inconsistencies notwithstanding, the regional court confirmed that decision as well-justified and lawful. Over the seven months since Klimov’s killing, the police, which promised to solve the crime “before the New Year”, has not made any significant progress in investigating the case: there have been no official reports about its tracking down either the killer or the mastermind. The victory in court over blogger Selivanov seems to be the sole “achievement” the regional police department has scored so far.

Finnish-language magazine reader’s legal claim turned down again in Karelia

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

That was already the second case lost in court by A. Grigoryev, leader of the Karelian Congress public group. In January, Grigoryev, protesting against Karelia magazine’s downsizing from ten to two issues a year, lodged a claim with the Petrozavodsk city court, asking to protect his rights as a reader by ordering a reversal to the former periodicity of publications and by awarding him 2 million roubles in moral damages from the Ministry of Ethnic Policy, Public Relations and Contacts with Public and Religious Associations and the Media, plus 1 million from Periodika Publishers’, the magazine’s owner, to compensate for his inability to regularly read his favourite periodical. The Petrozavodsk city court rejected his claim, finding the plaintiff’s arguments insufficiently convincing. A. Grigoryev challenged that decision before the Supreme Court of Karelia.


In parallel, he filed with the city court a slightly modified legal claim, in which he again demanded a return to the release of Karelia magazine ten times a year; urged the Ethnic Policy Ministry and Periodika Publishers’ to apologise to the readers for the disrupted publishing schedule; and slashed the claimed amount of compensation to 1 million roubles from each of the defendants. A few days ago the city court turned down Grigoryev’s second claim, too, on the following grounds:

The magazine’s downsizing proceeded in full compliance with effective legislation, with the new editorial policy not affecting the readers in a big way, and with Periodika Publishers’ fulfilling the full range of its obligations: those who subscribed to Karelia magazine on the former terms and conditions received the full package of “old” editions; and the 2014 subscription was only for the two editions planned for this year. The impossibility of issuing Karelia ten times a year is beyond the subject matter of the judicial dispute, since the magazine’s downsizing was caused by objective economic and demographic reasons: publishing the magazine in its previous format is impossible not because the state is unwilling to finance the publication but because Karelia’s Finnish-language readership is shrinking. During the past year, the magazine had a one-time print run of only 430 copies, but even those sold badly. The costs of issuing one edition of the multi-colour, 100-page literary magazine exceed 1,000 roubles, whereas its retail price ranges between 40 and 75 roubles.

When setting the 2014 production targets for Periodika, a publishing house issuing six different Finno-Ugric publications, the Ethnic Policy Ministry allocated the funding for the release, in addition to the two Finnish-language editions of Karelia magazine, of one edition in the Karelian language and another one in Veps.

Yet A. Grigoryev intends to challenge the city court ruling before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Rally in support of Life News journalists held in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

About 50 journalists held a rally in downtown Voronezh on 21 May to express solidarity with Life News journalist Oleg Sidyakin (a former reporter for Voronezh-based TV channels) and his colleague Marat Saichenko, who were detained by Ukrainian military outside the city of Kramatorsk on 18 May. Since then, their colleagues and families did not hear anything from them, but a video clip was posted in the Internet showing their detention. The video featured men in Ukrainian National Guard uniform using force against the journalists, tying up their hands and bringing them down on their knees. Sidyakin and Saichenko were placed in one of Kiev’s prisons and charged with “providing assistance to terrorists”. Last week, Ukrainian authorities refused to let through an OSCE delegation to see the detainees.

Officials representing Russia, the EU and the United States called to release the journalists who had been doing their professional work. A campaign was launched in the internet to gather signatures under a petition calling for the journalists’ release. Finally, Sidyakin and Saichenko were set free late on 24 May.



Foul language to be banned for use in Russian media?

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

“As part of its controlling and oversight mission, Roskomnadzor is increasing control over the media’s compliance with the legal norms and regulations prohibiting the use of foul language,” the official website of the federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications reported. “As decided by the service management, detecting violations in the relevant area will be seen as a priority direction of work. The heads of regional branches have been assigned to take under personal control state inspectors’ efforts to prevent the use of obscenities in media publications.”

Since amendments to Article 4 of the RF Media Law and to Article 13.21 of the Russian Administrative Code were enacted, and considering the proneness of Russian government officials, prominent public figures and businessmen to swear in public, the journalists in this country have been faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, the Media Law requires the media to quote officials’ public statements precisely, without “beeping out” or omitting excessively strong expressions one may feel free to use. On the other, quoting their obscenities word for word is now risky, too. If a media outlet reports the fact of a celebrity’s behaving rudely in public, and accurately quotes him as saying so and so, will it be held legally liable for that?

With such an approach, hushing up the ample use of foul language in modern Russian society, especially in its beau monde part, might only add to the “moral decay” of the national elites, which have always acted as trendsetters in Russian fashion. I wouldn’t risk citing here any of the numerous close-to-the-bone statements made by prominent Russian politicians over the last year alone. This is a point the State Duma MPs should have noted if they seriously meant to eradicate this bad habit by amending the relevant Media Law provision, and should have simultaneously forbidden, to begin with, the use of foul language by executives, legislators and government servants of all levels and ranks.

Over the years of my work as a journalist, I couldn’t remember a single report in the first person singular in which the author would use four-letter words describing someone or something. As a rule, curse words are retained only in citations from main characters’ utterances – for purposes of making the description of an event more expressive, or giving an insight into a person’s “inner world”.

Internet’s symbolic funeral held in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

In Yekaterinburg on 22 May, on the Iset River bank where a monument to the computer keyboard – its scaled-up copy – had been installed, activists of the Problem 2018 movement, dressed in black gowns and accompanied by a brass band playing the funeral march, shocked residents and tourists by covering the monument with a black banner and putting up a cross with “Internet Internetovich Internetov, 1992-2014” inscribed on it. One of the action organisers, Platon Mamatov, explained that this is a protest against the latest actions of the Yekaterinburg administration which is requiring the internet providers to clear the city of the fibre-optic cables.

“The mayor’s office has declared war on the internet and common sense,” he said, “by issuing orders to cut off the cables from the street poles and throw them on the ground. Actually, the bureaucrats are burying the internet. And if the internet is dead, who will ever need the keyboard? That’s why we decided to bury it too, symbolically.”

According to the Ura.ru news agency, in line with the city administration’s instructions, the internet providers in Yekaterinburg must remove the communication lines from the street poles belonging to the municipal Tram & Trolley-bus Department – a total of 1,000 km of fibre-optic cables fixed to the poles with 20,000 fasteners. Dismantling these within so short a period of time is impossible, the Urals Association of Telecom Operators said. That is why the officials issued directions saying that any cables remaining in place would be simply cut off.

Originally, the mayor’s office planned to complete the action by the year 2018. This explains the origin of the name of the public group which has launched a special website to discuss possible solutions to the problem. Yet the deadline was suddenly changed. Activists are convinced the measure will result in a collapse of the telecommunication systems, leaving the residents of Yekaterinburg without the internet, cell phones and other telecom services.



Far Eastern Media Summit to be held in Vladivostok on 3-4 June

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

On 3-4 June, Vladivostok will play host to a Far Eastern Media Summit that will bring together journalists not only from the Maritime Region but from all across Russia’s Far East, as well as from Asian-Pacific countries. Among the delegates will be Nadezhda Azhgikhina, secretary of the Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) and vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists; investigative journalist Boris Reznik, a State Duma deputy; RJU secretary Vladimir Kasyutin, author of the concept of “improved” government-media relations; Galina Arapova, director of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre; Jim Bumela, president of the International Federation of Journalists; heads of journalistic associations from regional countries, and others.

In the run-up to the conference, journalists are formulating problems to be placed on the agenda, beginning with such essential ones as power transparency.

“I as a journalist am very interested in how to make state power more open and transparent; to me it’s a problem of priority importance,” said prominent journalist Dmitry Novikov, a regional MP and author and anchorman of Stalker, a popular TV show that has given rise to many legal claims against its author, and has several times been shut down for criticism but re-launched again. “I think we should focus on new legislation imposing tougher restrictions on the media, and discuss whether or not such restrictions are really needed. Also, it would make sense dispelling the myths about so-called media independence.”

On the eve of the media summit, politicians and parliamentarians are presenting their own claims to the media. Many say journalists promote the ruling party alone, leaving other political forces beyond the scope of attention and providing very biased coverage of political events.

“The ruling party is in a privileged position: the media often cover only United Russia’s activities without even mentioning other parties,” Konstantin Mezhonov, a Legislative Assembly deputy representing the Fair Russia party, told the PrimaMedia news agency. “Distorted coverage is a problem that deserves to be discussed during the Far Eastern Media Summit.”

Liberal-Democratic Party MP Yevgeny Zotov suggested discussing “information wars”. “A journalist must provide truthful coverage of events – for example, of the situation in Ukraine; but one shouldn’t forget that a reporter is also a citizen of his country, and this should be reflected in the content of his reports.”

“It’s a good idea to bring together journalists from all across the Far East. The media community has a potential to shape public opinion on a variety of issues,” journalists are saying.

District media editors proposed a topic for discussion that is of major importance to the majority of reporters. “Federal authorities should make provisions in their budgets to pay for the media coverage of their activities. Quite often, municipal newspapers come under pressure from different government agencies to publish their materials, and local administration heads second them by sending down instructions like, ‘Don’t write about this, it’s taboo; do mention that instead.’ Many are unhappy to see the amounts of government subsidising remaining unchanged for years, while the volumes of district administrations’ documentation slated for publishing has been growing from year to year,” an editor said.

“Journalists, just like lawyers, need to develop a corporate culture based on close intra-community ties and cooperation. In the Maritime Region, certain political factors have prevented the development of such culture,” journalist Aleksandr Ognevsky said. “The media summit may be expected to kick-start the process of culture creation and development. Journalists from different countries will come together at long last to discuss their outstanding problems, work out new methods of cooperation, and adjust their professional contacts.”

“As a person with records of work in two different sectors of the media space – journalism proper and PR – I would be very interested in discussing patterns of interaction between these two spheres in today’s world,” he added.

“This is a very timely journalistic initiative that should help us deal with problems facing both the media community and society as a whole,” Dr. Tatyana Prudkoglyad, a professor with the journalism department at Far Eastern Federal University’s School of Liberal Arts, told GDF.


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,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

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

Все новости

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