10 Февраля 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation Digest No. 646

3 February 2014



Dozhd TV channel pressured hard in January

As Russia was preparing to mark 70 years since the lifting of the German army’s siege of Leningrad, the TV channel Dozhd asked its viewers and website visitors on 26 January to answer the question, “Should the Soviet command have surrendered Leningrad to save hundreds of thousands of human lives?”

A debatable question, one must agree. Also, there may be doubts as to how relevant and reasonable it was for Dozhd to ask it. Yet the consequences the channel’s action led to surpassed all expectations.

State Duma deputies were the first to sound the alarm, supported by “professional” activists and patriots, who called to “strip Dozhd of its broadcasting license”, “check its programme content for extremism”, “shut it down altogether”, etc. They went as far as accusing the TV channel of “defiling and desecrating the memory of the fallen” and of “betraying the nation”. MP Irina Yarovaya, claiming insulted by the Dozhd poll, said that “actions of this kind should always be interpreted as attempts to exonerate Nazism”; she left the public to guess what an opinion poll might at all have to do with Nazism or its exoneration.

Curiously enough, many of those who called for sanctions against Dozhd admitted the TV channel had not violated any laws by attempting to discuss a controversial point.

On the very next morning, to prevent the conflict from blowing up, Dozhd removed the poll from its website and apologised to everyone who might have been affected. Yet it was too late. A group of activists of one youth organisation, driven by some rather vague motives, put on the Red Army uniform and hoisted a replica of the WWII Victory Flag over the Dozhd studios. Things took a still more serious turn when Yuri Pripachkin, president of Russia’s Cable TV Association, hinted at the possible imposition of censorship. He said, very straightforwardly, “I felt like… taking on a censor’s functions and cutting short the flow of such information.” Public Communications Deputy Minister Aleksey Volin seconded him by noting that “cable and satellite TV carriers are required to air only the ten official public channels [which do not include Dozhd],” and adding that the scandalous opinion poll would be “assessed in terms of its legality”.

The St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office rushed to carry his promise out, with the General Prosecutor’s Office joining in after a while. The prosecutors wanted to check whether Dozhd had “gone beyond the limit” in attempting a “presumably extremist” opinion poll on the eve of a memorable date. Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications], for its part, sent Dozhd a “prophylactic” message saying, “By posting that… video clip, the channel’s management breached the provisions of Article 49 of the RF Media Law requiring a journalist to respect citizens’ rights and lawful interests in the process of his/her professional work”. The oversight agency, however, did not specify what particular “rights and lawful interests” had been disregarded.

Meanwhile, Russia has been swept by a wave of Dozhd’s disconnections from broadcasting networks. In a number of regions, such carriers as Akado, Dom.ru, Rostelekom, NTV+, Beeline and Vympelkom dropped Dozhd’s signal in defiance of a warning from the Presidential Council on Human Rights which had identified Pripachkin’s initiative to exclude Dozhd from the cable TV service package as “an instance of censorship”. Nor did they pay attention to the Russian Journalists’ Union statements about the inadmissibility of switching Dozhd off; or the Moscow Journalists’ Charter concerns that this “immoral hysteria over Dozhd’s poll” might signal a politically motivated attempt to restrict the independent channel’s operation; or the Russia PEN Centre’s warning that Dozhd’s closure would “mark yet another step toward turning the mass media into instruments of all-out propaganda”.

Whatever the reasons, Dozhd programmes were banned from the air altogether in Voronezh, Kurgan, Cheboksary, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, Kursk, Novosibirsk, Abakan, Surgut, Omsk, Penza, and Yoshkar-Ola, and reportedly were interfered with occasionally in Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Perm, Moscow, Yaroslavl, Ryazan, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, and Volgograd, with “TV carrier representatives admitting in private conversations they’d had phone calls from the presidential administration asking them to drop our channel’s signal,” Dozhd chief editor Mikhail Zygar said.

In this context, another scandal that flared up actually at the same time produced a really queer impression. On 28 January the State TV/Radio Company (VGTRK) posted on its website, in the section “Great People Speaking about Lenin”, a portrait of Goebbels along with a quote from his assessment of the Soviet Union’s founder. The quote was removed shortly; the channel apologised to everyone and said those responsible would be held answerable. And that’s that – no angry statements by parliamentarians, no clowns brandishing a model of Lenin’s mausoleum on the roof of the VGTRK studios, no calls for shutting the TV channel down – nothing at all…

One cannot help wondering why the two reactions were so different; in fact, the situation with Dozhd looked quite innocent against the background of VGTRK’s howler – its daring to call Goebbels a “great man”. Was it because the state broadcaster rushed to fire everyone involved in the scandal, while Dozhd did not? This doesn’t seem likely. There is a more plausible explanation: according to Dozhd general director Natalya Sindeyeva, problems started piling up for her independent TV channel much earlier – after its 30 November 2013 report about luxurious villas some high-ranking government officials had built in the Sosny dacha cooperative near Moscow…

One other curious detail: according to Sindeyeva, the same question that Dozhd asked in its poll was also discussed live on Kultura (Culture) TV channel, on the website of the magazine Diletant and in other media – without any negative consequences for any one of those concerned.



Dozhd channel’s suspension in Omsk may trigger a hail of citizens’ legal claims

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The disappearance of Dozhd programmes from the TV screens in Omsk may trigger a hail of legal claims and complaints to the law enforcement agencies, as called for by civil activist Viktor Korb, who has invited everyone to “make the buttheads who switched the TV channel off pay a pretty penny for that”. Direct legal action in this case is much more efficient than “pointless Twitter exchanges”, he says, because the cable TV carriers concerned have done worse than merely violating viewers’ rights: they have encroached upon more “sensitive” consumer rights.

Korb posted in his blog on Openjourn.ru the text of a legal claim he has filed against ER-Telecom Holding, provider of a Dom.ru package of cable TV services, and invited other affected viewers to follow suit. He said despite his having accurately paid for the package for many years, ER-Telecom blocked his access to the Dozhd channel at zero notice on 29 January, which action struck Korb as “a flagrant violation of the service agreement and the terms and conditions of public offers, and a breach of effective legislation protecting consumer rights”.

He demanded 100,000 roubles in moral and material damages from ER-Telecom, and said he would shortly post in his LiveJournal blog template forms of complaints to court, the Antimonopoly Department and other oversight agencies. He urged people to “circulate this information via any channels available”, thereby demonstrating “good self-organisation and civic solidarity”. “Hundreds and thousands of consumer complaints, backed with legal claims, would become weighty arguments in the eyes of [TV network] owners and managers who can count their money well,” he wrote.

Three active bloggers have informed Korb in LiveJournal they have already filed legal claims against ER-Telecom in accordance with his instructions; judging by the growing number of visits to his blog, the claim-filing process is gaining momentum.

Ukrainian journalist detained in Belgorod, deported from Russia

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A Ukrainian journalist who was working on a story for the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno about Crimean residents’ attitude to the latest developments in Ukraine was detained by Russian border guards in the Belgorod Region on 27 January on his way by train from Simferopol to Moscow. Mikhail Skrylnikov was told he would not be allowed into Russia until 2016. The journalist has never violated any Russian laws (last time he spent fewer than 90 days in Russia and departed on time), so he was quietly travelling to the Moscow Region where his wife and son live.

The guards told him the no-entry warrant was issued by the Bryansk Region branch of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) in the wake of his “breaching some migration rules” on the region’s territory. When Skrylnikov attempted to take a photo picture of the warrant, the border guards rudely prevented him from doing so, and then started video-recording the proceedings with their own camera, pretending to behave politely and not resorting to violence anymore.

Skrylnikov refused to sign the warrant terminating his trip to Moscow; he dismissed the guards’ and FMS claims as groundless. The guards did not cite the law provision they were guided by in refusing him entry to Russia, nor did they tell him what particular “law violation” had led to his banishment from this country. In response to all his questions, they said he should check with the Bryansk department of the FMS. They did not explain to him the procedure for challenging the ban.

The journalist has never requested a residence permit from the Russian authorities, because he has to constantly make trips to Sevastopol, Ukraine, to see his parents, and also because he has never worked in Russia. His erroneous – or deliberate – blacklisting by the FMS will not allow him to visit his family for the next two years.

The FMS department in Bryansk, where Skrylnikov was advised to call for consulting, was not available on the phone. He then called the department’s hotline number, only to be connected to an answering machine. Officials at the FMS department in Moscow suggested he should fax them a message describing his situation in detail, which he promptly did.

After his colleagues at Sovershenno Sekretno filed several official inquiries with the FNS head office in Moscow during the following week, they were finally told by FMS spokesmen it was “the deported person’s private business” to file such inquiries, with which their press service had “nothing to do” – and this despite their prior assurances that they were “looking into the matter” and would soon furnish an official reply.

They are still promising to explain the incident shortly. Sovershenno Sekretno staffers are looking forward to an early reply – especially because their correspondent was deported for an alleged “violation of migration rules” on the territory of the Bryansk Region, where Skrylnikov has never been at all.

Court in Khabarovsk (Far East) sanctions media company for disclosing ex-MP’s personal data by publishing photo picture of his passport

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

PrimaMedia Holding last September filed a legal claim with the Central district court in Khabarovsk to challenge a Roskomnadzor requirement for the editor of EAOMedia (a PrimaMedia daughter company) to remove from its website a photocopy of the passport of Iosif Brener, an Israeli citizen and a former deputy of the City Duma in Birobijan.

In June 2013, EAOMedia posted a report titled “Political Scandal in Birobijan: MP Turns Out to Be Israeli Citizen”, illustrated by a photocopy of Brener’s Israeli passport. Brener complained to the local department of Roskomnadzor about the “unlawful disclosure” of his personal data.

The journalists said the information about the MP’s Israeli citizenship surfaced after a check-up carried out by law enforcement, resulting in Brener’s resignation. The authors insisted that by publishing the report about Brener as a public figure, they were defending public interests: as a citizen of a foreign state, Brener did not have the right to be a Duma deputy, meaning that by circulating his personal data without his consent, the news agency did not breach the relevant law, and that the picture of his passport was only meant to be a proof of the accuracy of the report.

However, the court pointed to the fact that the picture featured the passport owner’s biometric data, classified as personal data, while the news agency could not clearly explain the reasons for making these data public. The judge also noted that as of the date of the publication, Brener was no longer an MP, which meant that a picture of his passport was no longer of interest to the public. Besides, Brener had resigned of his own free will, and his resignation was not a public concern anymore. Taking all those facts into consideration, the court turned PrimaMedia’s claim down.

The journalists’ interests were represented in court by legal counsellors from the Voronezh-based Media Defence Centre.

Law enforcement grows lenient in Khakassia?

By Mikhail Afanasyev, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The city court in Abakan, Republic of Khakassia, has accepted a business reputation protection claim lodged by the republic’s Drug Control Authority against Igor Pokusin, leader of the public movement “This Is the Limit!”, and the Novyi Fokus web magazine and its editor, in connection with a story posted on the Novyi Fokus website.

The story’s author, whose son has been convicted of selling illegal drugs, is convinced the charges against his son were trumped up. He described the Drug Control Authority as an agency whose officials resort to unlawful methods because “they are unable to effectively resist the spread of drugs and therefore try to justify their existence by setting up innocent people”.

That the Drug Control Authority lodged a civil claim and did not even ask for any moral damage compensation this time seems rather strange: in the past, Novyi Fokus repeatedly became a target for criminal prosecution in similar situations – as a rule, on charges of “libel”. Most of those cases were eventually closed, but the criminal investigations seriously complicated the journalists’ work.

Is Khakassia’s law enforcement now showing a trend toward greater leniency?

University head in Voronezh claims 1 million roubles in damages from newspaper and its editor

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Central district court in Voronezh is considering a legal claim lodged against the Regional Media Programmes Company and the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Voronezhe by Denis Petrov, director of the Voronezh branch of the Russian State University of Commerce and Economics, in connection with last October’s publication titled “A High-Quality Fake: Why Some Political Parties Are Established”. The plaintiff sees the story as “smearing, libellous and damaging to my honour, dignity and business reputation”.

In particular, he objects to the following two passages: “When could he [Denis Petrov] possibly become a philosopher – moreover, a Candidate of Sciences? Well, there may be different recipes: some people are always in time for everything doing nothing, while others simply pay for having scientific works written for them…”; and “A university staffer told our correspondent that Mr Petrov felt free to say, ‘Get that whore into my office – quick!’ about an assistant professor and a woman who is several years his senior…”; and to a number of evaluative statements about his “unfair” and “hysterical” management style.

Besides a disclaimer, Petrov wants a total of 1 million roubles in moral damages from the two defendants whose interests are represented in court by legal counsellors from the Media Defence Centre.

Stavropol authorities’ “focus on journalist qualifications” seen as negative trend

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Working tirelessly to make their sweet dream – attaining universal like-mindedness – come true, although reluctant to publicly acknowledge their goal and seeking to make it sound as decent as possible, Russian bureaucrats have invented a disguise phrase to describe their efforts: “building a unified media space”.

It was to discuss this topic – how to create a space where all people would think alike and, still more important, would adopt a style of news reporting according to patterns “approved above” – that Mikhail Vedernikov, an aide to President Putin’s plenipotentiary representative in the North Caucasian Federal District, called a recent conference that brought together spokespeople for the top-ranking regional leaders, heads of the relevant ministries, representatives of the Modern Caucasus Policy Centre (TsSKP Kavkaz), and a group of media editors. The conferees discussed the prospects of “establishing a North Caucasian journalist association and signing agreements among the different-level executive bodies overseeing the implementation of media policy”; “involving more of TsSKP Kavkaz analysts in that work” with a view to getting “more weighed and objective assessments of the regional developments”; and organising the Second North Caucasian Media Forum to be attended by “prominent and authoritative representatives of the federal media community”.

Significantly enough, the Republic of Dagestan’s press and information minister, Aznaur Ajiyev, passionately supported the “unified media space” initiative (as if its implementation might put an end to journalist killings in the republic; but then, why kill journalists in an environment of total like-mindedness?). Other speakers pointed to the “inadequate use of news agency resources” and to the “low level of regional reporters’ professional training”…

After the conference, the plenipotentiary representative’s office issued a press release that abounded in vacuous or ambiguous statements and hinted at potentially huge budgetary input (the proposed media forum alone would cost an astronomic sum!).

There are principles of a journalist’s work that are accepted throughout the civilised world: rely on several – cross-checked – information sources; maintain a balance of opinions; and incur a degree of professional risk recommended by the Journalist’s Code of Ethics. Nothing more than that! One just has to comply with those principles and not let oneself be fooled by authorities at any level. All the rest, including additional “analysts” from media centres anywhere, be it in the Caucasus or in Yakutia, as well as new or “parallel” journalist associations, is sheer nonsense – nothing but additional barriers or disguised forms of censorship designed to get urgent news reports drowned in a sea of “coordination and authorisation”, never making it to the readers or viewers.

Dear government officials, you needn’t worry about journalists’ qualifications – better make sure your own are sufficiently high! Please furnish same-day replies to official inquiries, grant interviews, take part in public discussions, call news conferences more frequently and make sure these are open to all reporters, not only to pre-selected ones! If you do, you’ll be surprised to see how fast the level of journalist qualifications will improve!



Joint statement by Russian Journalists’ Union, GDF and Media Defence Centre on situation around SakhalinMedia news agency

Last November, the offices of the news agency SakhalinMedia, which is part of PrimaMedia Holding, were searched in connection with a legal case opened on libel charges (under RF Criminal Code Article 128.1.2). Police seized all the hard discs, notebook PCs and other information carriers, thereby bringing the news agency’s operation to a standstill.

The criminal proceedings were started at the initiative of Aleksandr Verkhovsky, a member of the RF Federation Council representing the Sakhalin Region. The police officers carrying out the searches said they were looking for the original text of an appeal to President Vladimir Putin by residents of Ozyorskiy village in the Korsakovsky district that had given rise to a SakhalinMedia report, “Ozyorskiy Residents Ask Putin for Protection against Business-minded Senator”, which assessed the situation in the village critically. It was that publication that prompted Verkhovsky to complain to law enforcement about SakhalinMedia “belying” him.

PrimaMedia’s Maritime headquarters in Vladivostok were later searched, too.

Those actions were resolutely denounced by the journalistic community. Many media groups, including the Russian Journalists’ Union (www.ruj.ru), the Mass Media Defence Centre (www.mmdc.ru) and the Glasnost Defence Foundation (www.gdf.ru), made public statements censuring the police for an excessively tough reaction amounting to interference with journalists’ lawful professional activity. Yet law enforcement left those statements unnoticed at the time, and a 10-strong team of investigators are still cracking down on SakhalinMedia as zealously as they would otherwise investigate a murder or another grave, socially dangerous offence.

The Media Defence Centre has assessed police actions against the news agency as a demonstration of force and as deliberate attempts to disrupt the reporting process and to intimidate the journalists – and we share that assessment. Also, we share the view that the searches of the news agency offices and seizure of its information carriers marked instances of encroachment on the journalists’ professional secrets and attempts to compromise their information sources in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention. The office computers might feature information that had been provided to the authors of other materials – either already published or being prepared for publication – on confidentiality terms. Actually, the police actions in Sakhalin put that confidentiality at risk.

As the investigators are preparing a criminal indictment, we are again pointing to what strikes us as clearly unlawful pressure that Senator Verkhovsky has been putting on journalists, and as inadmissible meddling by law enforcement in media work in a situation in which the press is performing its professional duty in good faith and defending public interest.

We see the increasingly numerous instances of journalists’ criminal prosecution for libel as excessive measures aimed to suppress freedom of expression and restrict media criticism – especially online criticism – of the poorly-performing authorities.

We are again urging the heads of Russia’s Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General’s Office to assess the Sakhalin police’s behaviour toward SakhalinMedia and PrinaMedia in legal and professional terms, and to put an end to the unlawful pressure on regional journalists.


Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the internet, including at:

Al Jazeera: Russia media Olympics

Ekho Moskvy: Debriefing

Kasparov.ru: Criminal case against Rostov-based journalist Aleksandr Tolmachev transferred for handling to Kushchevsky district court



Law on prejudicial blocking of websites commented on

By Svetlana Zemskova, GDF legal adviser

In line with the latest amendments to the law “On Information, Protection Thereof, and Information Technologies”, which came into legal force as of 1 February 2014, a website may now be closed without a court warrant. The prosecutor’s office may restrict access to web resources “circulating calls for mass unrests or extremist acts, as well as other illegal information”. Article 15.3 of the said law stipulates: “1. In the event of public communication networks, including the internet, being found to have circulated information involving calls for mass unrests, extremist acts or participation in mass (public) events held in violation of the established rules, including cases where notices of the circulation of such information come from federal government bodies, government bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, local self-governments, organisations or individual citizens, the RF Prosecutor-General or his deputies shall require the federal executive body charged with overseeing the sphere of mass information, public communications, and information and communication technologies, to take measures to restrict access to the carriers circulating such information.”

In our view, this law will affect online media in the first place. The initiative to restrict access to information carriers shall come from the Prosecutor-General or his deputies. Prosecutorial requirements to block off a website will be sent to Roskomnadzor, which shall immediately notify the communication service operators concerned of the need to take appropriate measures of response. Once this is done, the oversight agency will determine the lawbreaking website’s hosting service provider and demand that the relevant information be removed. A web resource may resume its operation only after Roskomnadzor makes sure the illegal information has been erased.

We are especially concerned about the provision that the prosecutor’s office requirements to close online media outlets may now be based not only on the oversight agency’s own monitoring data or notices from government bodies but also on appeals from individual citizens.

Considering the tight timeframe for the prosecutors to respond to complaints by individuals and organisations, it is easy to imagine that a media outlet’s operation may now be suspended in response to a person’s complaint about the allegedly “extremist” content of a publication. The RF Media Law prescribes a different procedure: a court may terminate an online media outlet’s operation in response to repeated continuing violations of the said law’s Article 4 by the website management during the last 12 months despite its owner and/or editorial board’s receipt of written warnings from the registrar.

In the past, “extremist” websites might be closed and a media outlet’s operation might be suspended only in line with a court decision.

With the latest amendments in place, media operation will likely be suspended for continuous periods of time without any court decision. At the same time, as we see it, blocking online news sites will be at odds with Article 16 of the Media Law stipulating that a media outlet’s operation may be terminated or suspended only at its owner’s initiative or under a court decision passed upon review of a civil law claim lodged by the registrar.

Labour Ministry grants benefit to international journalists

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

Foreign journalists have been allowed to work for Russian media regardless of the existing regional quotas on international labour employment. Yet foreign employees, who are deemed to belong to the category of highly-qualified specialists, will cost dearly to their employers – at least 2 million roubles a year, excluding taxes and extra-budgetary dues.

Russia’s Labour and Social Security Minister Maksim Topilin recently decreed to recognise [foreign] correspondents and TV show hosts as highly-qualified specialists. Registered with the Justice Ministry in late January, the decree authorises employers to invite foreign journalists, as well as specialists of 50-odd other professions – among them different-level managers, engineers and creative intellectuals – to work on beneficial terms in Russia.

The greatest hurdle is the amount of wages payable to them – if less than the threshold 2 million roubles a year (excluding taxes), then the benefit will not be applicable. Clearly, few media outlets would be able to pay that much – unlike state-financed media, especially those having their target audiences abroad. The reference is to the TV channel Russia Today and the news agency of the same name, established on the basis of former RIA Novosti.

Anyway, if a foreign journalist is a priori deemed to be a specialist of high qualifications, one may humbly hope that the Russian state – with time – will learn to treat domestic media workers with due respect, too.

Representatives of third and fourth power branches meet at roundtable conference

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Another conference of Sverdlovsk Region media editors-in-chief with regional court judges was held in Yekaterinburg on 28 January in the format of a free and constructive dialogue, according to roundtable organiser Sergey Plotnikov, who also is an Oblastnaya Gazeta columnist and a long-time partner of the GDF.

The parties discussed freedom of speech in the light of numerous legal claims and criminal charges brought against journalists. “It’s equally important for journalists and judges to clearly understand what is allowed by law and what isn’t,” he said. “It’s still more important to reach mutual understanding on things that are not defined in the law but increasingly often occur in judicial and media practices.”

Most online media reporters attending the roundtable at the regional House of Justice asked questions about the rules of using photo and video cameras in and near the courtroom. As it turned out, such practices as a recent “hunt for secret witnesses”, attempted by one web news site’s reporters during a court hearing, are seen as unacceptable by both judges and journalists. In the future, such incidents may give rise to criminal proceedings against those responsible, the conferees were told.

Print media editors, among them Oblastnaya Gazeta’s Dmitry Polyanin, were more concerned about some people’s indifferent and negligent attitude to the fulfilment of their civic duties. This is reflected, for example, in the regional court’s occasional failure to find the required number of persons to act as jurors in the 6 to 8 jury trials that annually take place in that court.

After the cooperation agreement signed by the regional court with the Sverdlovsk Creative Journalists’ Union in late December, last Tuesday’s roundtable in Yekaterinburg marked yet another step by the judiciary and media toward better mutual understanding in their everyday work.



CPJ, HRW and RSF denounce restrictions on news coverage in Sochi

The New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 28 January released a report denouncing restrictions on news coverage in Sochi in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“Russian authorities have cracked down on journalists, rights defenders, and civil activists in a way not seen since the break-up of the Soviet Union,” CPJ said.

“The majority of news outlets, particularly those controlled directly by the state, prefer to cover Sochi the way they would cover a deceased man: in a positive light or not at all,” the report said. “…The information vacuum comes amid a generally poor climate for press freedom across Russia. Since returning to the presidency in May 2012, Vladimir Putin has signed a number of restrictive laws directly or indirectly curbing media and Internet freedom. In addition, a cycle of impunity has continued to chill coverage of sensitive subjects, with investigative journalism declining due to self-imposed or external censorship.”

Attached to the document are CPJ recommendations, including to the International Olympic Committee – to “clearly and unequivocally condemn press freedom violations, including harassment, obstruction, and censorship of journalists…”; to the Russian government – “allow free, independent, and unobstructed coverage – by both international and domestic journalists and news outlets – of all issues surrounding the Sochi Olympics. Do not harass, prosecute, threaten to prosecute, or place under surveillance journalists or others who have criticized the negative impact of the Games on the local population...”; and to international journalists covering the Games – “insist that Russian authorities honour their press freedom commitments to the IOC, both for visiting and Russian journalists…”.

Full text of the CPJ report

At a joint news conference in Berlin on the following day, 29 January, representatives of the international rights groups Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiéres, RSF) accused the Russian authorities of mass-scale human rights violations in Sochi.

HRW spokesman Wolfgang Buettner pointed to such rights violations as exploitation of migrant workers, forced evictions of local residents to make room for Olympic construction, and hazardous impact on the environment. To that list, RSF added tough restrictions on press freedom in Sochi. Christian Mihr, head of RSF Germany, reminded the audience of the numerous restrictive laws passed during Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term, among them those allowing censorship and constant surveillance. “Many journalists say those laws loom over them like the sword of Damocles, causing them to resort to self-censorship,” Deutsche Welle cited Mihr as saying.


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.

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  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
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