11 Марта 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 604-605

25 February – 4 March 2013


Analysts meet in St. Petersburg to discuss legislative initiatives posing a threat to freedom of expression

Media analysts in St. Petersburg have held a Lenizdat.ru-sponsored conference, “Media-Related Legislative Initiatives: A Threat to Freedom of Expression or a Step toward a Law-Ruled State?” They discussed new media legislation, specifically the law “On Children’s Protection from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development”; the re-criminalization of libel; and the latest legislative initiatives proposing penalty for the use of obscene language in the press and banning the media’s mention of the nationality and religion of detainees, arrested persons, convicts and victims. Other topics included the proposed ban on foreigners’ work for the national media (the so-called “Posner Law”, which, though, has never been formalised as a bill); the potential ban on the use of foreign words, with the need to use their Russian equivalents instead; and the mandatory double-dotting of the Russian letter ё in all cases.

“The new State Duma body’s legislative innovations, for all their comicalness, make me feel concerned and alarmed,” Fontanka.ru chief editor Aleksandr Gorshkov commented.

Pavel Netupsky of the St. Petersburg-based Guild of Forensic Reporters called the proposed bills “unprofessional” and “unable to produce the effect desired by their initiators”.

“Suppose a law prohibiting bad language and approval of swearing were passed,” he said. “In that event, a journalist would be denied any chance not only to quote, say, [the late celebrity actress] Faina Ranevskaya, but simply to mention her habit of using curse words now and then – this might be interpreted as his approval of swearing.”

St. Petersburg MPs were the only ones to vote against that bill, Marina Shishkina, deputy chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly’s standing committee on education, culture and science, said.

“There are members of different parliamentary factions in our committee, but we were unanimous as to that bill,” she said, adding that everyone should actively “resist this pressure on the media” by reporting it to as broad an audience as possible. “But the primary role is reserved for professional organisations and associations of journalists – there’s no other way of going about it.”

Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in the North-Western Federal District, seconded her by expressing concern over the absence of a journalistic trade union.

“It is this kind of union that would be capable of defending journalist rights, and not only in the area of politics,” he said. “Many of these absurd initiatives, which have or have not yet been enacted into laws, directly threaten our profession, and hence our labour rights! This is an argument the authorities can hardly ever dismiss.”

Andrei Yershov, deputy head of the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union, agreed that discussion of the possibility of establishing a trade union on the basis of his public association is “long overdue”. Steps in that direction have been taken by both the RJU leadership in Moscow and by regional branches, he said, while also noting that “this doesn’t mean the media or individual journalists should refrain from protesting against the latest legislative initiatives that potentially restrict freedom of expression”.



Independent newspaper owner arrested in Ryazan

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Valery Ryumin, a former mayor of Ryazan and the founder of the newspaper Vechernyaya Ryazan (VR), has been placed under arrest for two months.

He and Sergey Panin, a deputy of the Varskiye village council, Ryazan district, are facing extortion charges under Article 163 of the RF Criminal Code. According to the regional police department, they claimed 3 million roubles from a regional MP under the threat of publishing information about his abusing his official position.

A plea for Ryumin’s release on 1-million-rouble bail was turned down; the court decided he might hamper the investigation if released from detention. A former officer of the Ryazan Paratroopers’ Academy in charge of political work with personnel, Ryumin actively engaged in politics on the side of “the new democrats” after the Soviet Union’s collapse, and became the first post-Soviet mayor of Ryazan, who established the region’s largest newspaper – Vechernyaya Ryazan – in the 1990s. Since then, the newspaper has often carried critical articles addressing a variety of “burning” issues.

In 2006 Ryumin, along with VR editor Nikolai Kirilov, was first accused of extortion. The relevant charges were brought in response to a complaint filed with the FSB by MP Nikolai Bulychev, the-then head of the State Duma Committee on Education and a member of the ruling United Russia Party. Kirilov reportedly was detained while taking a bribe from Bulychev, who said the editor wanted him to pay for the entire print run of a VR issue featuring a campaign article in his support – or to see “totally different stuff” published. Kirilov, for his part, insisted that he had only come to collect pay from the MP for some prior publications.

Anyway, Kirilov and Ryumin spent several months attending judicial hearings. The court ruled for Kirilov to be barred from senior management at his newspaper for a few months; it did not impose any serious sanctions on Ryumin. For the following few years, Ryazan watched Valery Ryumin “take apart” different local politicians on the pages of his newspaper. True, some might find his publications too vulgar and not meeting the accepted ethical standards of journalism, but Vechernyaya Ryazan and the local edition of Novaya Gazeta remained the region’s two media outlets which took the liberty of criticising local and federal authorities.

Critical newspaper under pressure in Nizhny Novgorod Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The year 2013 began “the good way” for Sarov, a local newspaper issued in the region of Nizhny Novgorod – with nothing more than a couple of honour-and-dignity protection claims filed by yet another angry local deputy against the newspaper and its editor. One claim has already been won in court by Sarov, the other is still under consideration...

The claims’ filing did not surprise anyone, since the newspaper is known to have long been under pressure by the local authorities. Back in 2006, after a series of critical publications exposing corrupt practices within the administration, chief editor Aleksandr Lomtev began receiving phone calls advising him “not to meddle” in administrators’ work. Then unidentified villains set the Sarov office on fire, fully destroying the building and the office equipment. By a strange coincidence, one day before the arson the office telephone to which the alarm system was connected had been switched off. Police, as it often happens, did not find anyone to blame.

In 2007, street vendors distributing the newspaper were subjected to administrative pressure, and their number shrank notably. The editor’s complaint about that to Governor V. Shantsev resulted in no more information service contracts signed with Sarov by anyone at all ever since. All inquiries filed by the newspaper with the city administration produced no more than purely formal and meaningless replies, with the prosecutor’s office turning a blind eye to those violations of the Media Law, Lomtev said.

In 2009, Sarov repeatedly attempted to privatise the semi-basement where it had moved after the 2006 fire, but the city administration kept banning the privatisation and even filed a legal claim against the newspaper one year later. Fortunately, that and all the subsequent (2011) lawsuits brought against Sarov at the insistence of Mayor V. Dimitrov were decided in court in favour of the journalists.

Another attempt at setting the newspaper office on fire (a Molotov-cocktail bottle thrown into an office window failed to ignite) was neglected as someone’s “disorderly conduct”. Sarov’s opponents then decided to execute an “outflank” manoeuvre: they attached a hose to an outside water faucet in a neighbouring schoolyard, extended it to the office building and into the roof dormer, and turned the faucet on. Two office rooms and part of the equipment were flooded. “It might have been worse if we hadn’t installed a more sophisticated alarm system by that time,” the chief editor said.

A third arson attempt on 12 January 2012, following a series of publications criticising one of the local MPs, turned out a success: two rooms and most of the office equipment were destroyed by the fire. Two months later, in March, editor Lomtev’s private car was torched and burned down.

Such is the typical fate of many critical newspapers in remote Russian provinces.

Newspaper office attacked, secretary beaten up in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Three unknown men stormed into the office of the newspaper Vremya-Stavropolsky Krai in Mineralniye Vody on 25 February, demanding to see the owner, businessman Ilya Iliadi. However, only the secretary was present, a girl who had barely worked there for two weeks. “Then it’s you who will be held answerable!” they snapped at her, hitting her several times on the head with baseball bats and proceeding to kick away at her lying on the floor.

The secretary went to the first-aid station for medical assistance. Fortunately, she turned out to have suffered no more than a concussion, hip bruises and a serious shock.

Speaking at a news conference on 1 March, Iliadi said he was sure the attack was meant to intimidate the journalists in the wake of numerous publications exposing embezzlement and corruption within local and regional government bodies. As examples, he cited journalistic probes into the case of the regional water supply and sewage company StavropolVodoKanal, and litigations with several high-ranking officials. Iliadi said he had no personal enemies.

He urged the federal authorities to order measures to protect freedom of expression and safeguard journalist integrity, and proposed establishing organisations that would unite independent journalists, public activists and culture workers. The relevant proposals, to be submitted to President Putin, are already in the works, he said.

Law enforcement has started legal proceedings on charges of hooliganism under Article 213 of the RF Criminal Code; police are investigating the circumstances of the attack.

Investigative journalists attacked, video footage erased in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Goluber, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Two reporters for the Yekaterinburg-based Novy Region (NR) news agency have been attacked while fulfilling an editorial assignment, had their video camera taken away, and been threatened with violence.

NR correspondent Darya Vasiltseva and cameraman Aleksandr Salivanchuk were assigned a “tested-on-my-own-skin” task – to try to rent an apartment from one of the numerous estate agencies advertising their services in the Internet. They chose the one at 41, Lenin St., office 421 in Yekaterinburg, and received a warm welcome there.

“A girl clerk met us heartily, asking us to sit down and choose from a variety of apartments offered for hire,” the reporters told the GDF.

It became clear from the outset, though, that the agency was not exactly in the real estate business: the journalists were shown pretty expensive apartments advertised in the realty section of the city web portal E1.

“Taking a look at photo pictures of a well-designed and expensively furnished apartment, I could clearly see it might not cost less than a thousand dollars a month,” Salivanchuk said. “But the girl offered us to rent it for just a quarter of that amount. We agreed and told her we wanted to sign a service contract with her agency.”

It instantly turned out, however, that, after charging a $100 commission, the realtors would not accompany their clients to the landlord. At that moment, Salivanchuk was already openly recording the proceedings with his camera. Upon noticing this, the girl clerk quickly left the room, and a sturdy guy with a tattoo on his neck walked in instead.

“He sat down on a chair next to me and said he did not like my using the camera,” Salivanchuk said. “He then grabbed me by the arm and pushed me into the corridor. Several more men popped up to push me onto the floor and wring my hands behind my back. They took my camera and carried it away.”

The reporters phoned to their agency management, which instantly reported the incident to the police and contacted senior officials at the regional police department. The latter took the report seriously and sent a police patrol to the estate agency.

The police officers detained the alleged director of the realty firm and another staffer, who had treated the reporters in the rudest manner, threatening to “make them bite the dust”, Salivanchuk said. He got his camera back, but with all the footage erased from the memory stick.

It was not before 1 March that Novy Region managed to receive security camera recordings from the estate agency and have the erased video files restored shedding light on how companies within the Ekspress Nedvizhimost (Express Realty) Group treat their clients.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the situation in Yekaterinburg.

[Based on Novy Region-Yekaterinburg news agency reports]

Attempted raider attack on regional radio station in Khabarovsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Yevgeny Burlutsky, director of the Vostok Rossii radio station, sent Khabarovsk Region Governor Vyacheslav Shport on 4 March a message reading as follows:

“Dear Mr Shport:

“You spoke live on the air on Monday, 25 February, saying you planned to co-operate with us all the year round. But as early as Friday, 1 March, P. Sarychev, former head of the regional Information Policy Department, came to our radio station to start driving staffers from the workplace in an offhand manner, claiming he was fulfilling your orders. He did not present any documents, which perplexed us all. Actually, replacing the regional station’s director over a day’s time is legally impossible. What we saw here was not only an impudent attempt to disrupt the production process but also a clear instance of office abuse punishable under the law. I hereby inform you of that raider attack by a private person on a regional radio station by 60% owned by the Khabarovsk Region government. I ask for the earliest possible appointment with you to report on the situation from an alternative point of view and to understand your personal attitude to what is going on.

“Y. Burlutsky,
General Director and Editor-in-Chief, Vostok Rossii Radio Station”

Digest editor’s note: In line with Vostok Rossii’s charter, the radio station management may only be replaced by a meeting of the founders, each of whom shall be notified 30 days prior to the meeting: he shall be sent a package of documents detailing the agenda and containing the relevant reference materials. Calling founders’ meetings has always been a prerogative of the station management. Clearly, the established procedure was not followed in this case.

Krasnodar Region parliament amends electoral law so as to restrict reporters’ movement about polling stations

By Georgy Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Krasnodar Region Legislative Assembly on 20 February adopted amendments to legislation regulating the regional and municipal elections. From now on, as decided by MPs, the chairman of the electoral committee will determine the place inside the polling station from which a journalist will be allowed to take photo pictures or shoot video sequences on the voting day. The bill was proposed by the regional electoral committee.

Communist MPs attempted to change the bill.

“The bill’s provision allowing electoral committee heads to point to the place of, and to actually authorise, the reporters’ use of photo and video cameras strikes us as a restriction of the media rights,” regional communist leader Nikolai Osadchy said.

Small wonder that the changes he proposed were turned down: of the 100-strong body of the regional parliament, 95 deputies represent the ruling United Russia Party, and only 5 – the Communist Party.

The bill passed by the Assembly contradicts Federal Law No. 67, “On the Basic Guarantees of the Russian Federation Citizens’ Electoral Rights and Right to Participate in Referenda”, which does not provide for any such restrictions, Osadchy said. In his view, its passing may inflame conflict and “may notably limit the opportunities for the media’s normal operation during election campaigns”.

Omsk-based blogger’s texts labelled extremist

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The prominent Omsk-based blogger and public activist Viktor Korb has given the readers of his LiveJournal blog a cumbersome task: to find signs of extremism, if any, in one of his essays published about 18 months ago. The essay, entitled “Contract vs. the Norm”, discussed the correlation of contractual and normative principles underlying relations in different societies. For all the arguable points the author tried to make in that philosophic text, no reader of sound mind would be able to find at least any hint at extremism in it. Yet the Central district court in Omsk ruled to declare the essay extremist for no evident reason. It pointed, though, to “extremist” connotations in the sentence, “Of key importance is the prevalence of free and open relations among free individuals over any ideological myths.” […]

The human rights centre “Sova” the other day announced that the federal list of the writings banned for publishing has been revised. The list is rather lengthy, and Korb’s essay is on the 1,644th line, next to historian Yuri Afanasyev’s article “Is a Liberal Mission Possible for Russia?”, which for the first time was posted on Radio Liberty’s website about two years ago. Also on the list are such “extremist” publications as political scientist Vladislav Inozemtsev’s article “God-Given Power, Power-Chosen God” (published for the first time in Ogonyok magazine); as well as Gennady Logvinenko’s publication “Yulia Timoshenko’s Arrest: A Grave Crime against Justice”; Olgoy Khorkhoyev’s “Strategy 31: Is This All There Is to It?” and others, all of them labelled extremist by decisions of the Central and Kirov district courts in Omsk.

Court hearings of such cases are held behind closed doors all across the country, Viktor Korb told the GDF, adding that the authors, as a rule, are not notified of the verdict – they learn about hitting the group of “extremists” by chance, just as it happened to him this time.

What all of the above-named political writers have in common is that their texts have been posted in the web newspaper Radikalnaya Politika, which reprinted them from other sources in public domain. The way Korb looks at it, it is this newspaper – or, rather, its editor, the prominent opposition activist Boris Stomakhin – that is being targeted by Omsk courts; there seems to be no other plausible explanation. The “system”, in Korb’s view, “has grown senile enough” to declare any citizen – even if totally innocent – an “extremist”.

“They may come for anyone any moment now to arrest him or her without even letting them know why,” Korb said.

In such a situation, there seems to be the only way out for “disloyal” media publishers, journalists and ordinary netizens: to include in their texts – whether appropriately or not – quotes from statements by the nation’s leader, e.g., his phrase about the need to “do enemies in anywhere, even if in the lavatory”. This phrase, by the way, might serve as a good epigraph to publications by the most radically-minded authors: any judge would think a thousand times before labelling any such publication extremist…

Sakh.com news agency office successfully withstands administrative and judicial pressure in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal Distirct

The State Construction Oversight Inspectorate on 19 February officially certified the fact of the Sakh.com news agency’s having successfully passed all the required tests of an office building it had erected, meaning that the building can now be put into operation.

The independent news agency first applied for the building’s commissioning back in the autumn of 2011 (see Digest 571), but the authorities kept saying “no” on the pretext that the construction project was “unlawful”. Since then, the journalists have gone through numerous court hearings and the building’s sealing-off by the bailiffs, which action compelled them to look for alternative, temporary premises. Sakh.com went through all that with flying colours, without losing any of its staffers, partners or readers.

The public links the dragged-out formalisation process with the independent editorial policy pursued by the news agency, and with its web chat forum that has become the most popular regional Internet resource for people to express their views and organise different civic actions.

After the city mayor makes the decisive step by signing the package of official documents, the journalists will be able at long last to return to their new office, from which they were once ejected and which really adorns the city area where it was built.

One newspaper editor coerced into resigning, another not reinstated by court in Rostov Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The new administration of the Cossack capital Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, has coerced Irina Vassilyeva into resigning as editor of the newspaper Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti (NV), and a court of law in the Kashara district has declined to reinstate Yuri Pasikov as editor of the local newspaper Slava Trudu.

The former administration led by communist Mayor Anatoly Kondratenko replaced Vassilyeva seven (sic!) times – and as many times had to reinstate her in line with court decisions. Returning to work after the new Mayor Vladimir Kirtintsev (a member of the ruling United Russia Party)’s coming into power, the editor had just had the time to repay her wage debt to the staff and to release a fresh NV issue before it started all over again…

She intended to work with redoubled energy to regain the readers’ trust, much of which had been lost as the newspaper changed hands 14 times over the past two years, with its circulation shrinking accordingly. Yet Vassilyeva’s creative plans were doomed: an official from the team of Deputy Mayor Yuri Lysenko, who is in charge of information policy and relations with the media, told her that his boss insistently “advised” her to resign voluntarily – simply because the new administration wanted NV to be run by its own appointee.

“I’ve got so tired of all those sackings and reinstatements that I feel I haven’t the strength to continue fighting,” Vassilyeva said. Indeed, who in her stead would want to go through seven more trials that seem quite likely with the new administration in power?

She tendered her voluntary resignation and was instantly invited, as a valuable specialist, to run the newspaper PRObiznes, established by the Agency for Small- and Medium-Sized Business Support. The NV editor’s vacancy went to Ella Ovchinnikova, former media director with the local radio station Serebryany Dozhd.

The circulation of the main municipal newspaper in the globally known Cossack capital (population 180,000) is only 4,500 – less than that of a municipal newspaper in some far-off province. The circulation of the newspaper Taganrogskaya Pravda issued in Anton Chekhov’s home town of Taganrog (population 260,000) is only 4,000. There, too, no good professional has been found to fill the chief editor’s vacancy since last year’s administration reshuffle. But then, do municipal media really need popularity? Theirs are totally different sources of income…

The main thing is to ensure that the editor is “one of the team”; the rest really doesn’t matter. After power changed hands in the Kashara district in September, the new authorities instantly appointed a loyal administration clerk to run the newspaper Slava Trudu. The fired editor, Yuri Pasikov, appealed to the district court for reinstatement (see Digest 596), but his legal claim was turned down. He challenged that decision before the higher-standing regional court. The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Rostov.



Creative Journalists’ Union holds meeting in Yekaterinburg to hear reports and elect new officials

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Sverdlovsk Region Creative Journalists’ Union (SRCJU) on February 28 held a conference in Yekaterinburg to hear reports and elect new officials. A heated debate in the presence of 118 delegates representing 1,500 media outlets throughout the region showed the Union is indeed needed. The Russian Journalists’ Union President Vsevolod Bogdanov, who was on a visit to the Urals capital, could see for himself that for all the differences in their stands, all colleagues are interested in restoring the prestige of the journalist’s profession, securing the integrity of journalists performing their duty, and making journalism generally honest and responsible.

This is all the more important since the Urals media community is about to get, at long last, the opportunity to organise full-scale work on the basis of the House of Journalists, which is to open toward the end of next summer at 1, Clara Zetkin St. in downtown Yekaterinburg, as decided by Sverdlovsk Region Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev.

The delegates elected Aleskandr Levin chairman of the SRCJU board. Until recently press secretary to the previous governor, Eduard Rossel, Levin is a newsman in the second generation: his father Yuri A. Levin, a World War II veteran, was executive secretary with the Urals Military District newspaper Krasny Boyets.

In line with the vote returns, the SRCJU board will include representatives of all journalistic associations, including the Guild of Periodical Publishers, the Media Union, the Urals Federal District Council of Editors, as well as secretaries of the region’s best local newspapers. The conference provided the venue for journalists to discuss their concerns openly and honestly, and to cite specific facts in support of the points they made.

Your GDF correspondent was re-elected SRCJU executive secretary.

Frame-up trial over Far Eastern photo correspondent in St. Petersburg

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A district court in St. Petersburg has sentenced Aleksandr Komelkov, a reporter for the Vladivostok-based newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti, to two days of administrative arrest “for swearing in public and damaging city property” – and this despite the defendant’s claim that he was only a witness to a protest action staged outside the Dutch consulate. The judge was unwilling to enter into details; she said a police report was “a sufficient proof” of the man’s guilt.

After the journalist challenged his arrest, the city court of St. Petersburg on 12 February met to carry out a judicial inquiry in order to finally decide whether or not Komelkov was guilty of disorderly conduct in line with Article 20.1 of the RF Administrative Code. The court sitting was attended by Arsenyevskiye Vesti journalist and co-founder Tatyana Romanenko.

“That judicial inquiry per se was of interest as an example of simulation of a judicial process totally devoid of any meaning,” she said. “Komelkov said he had not done anything in violation of the law – the policemen had made a protocol belying him, for which they had had a motive: they had failed to detain any protesters and needed someone to blame, because their bosses wanted to see an offender brought to justice. The judge, however, brushed his arguments aside, building the inquiry entirely around the absence of a press badge on Komelkov’s coat.”

She asked him to explain how the police officers were supposed to see he was a reporter if he wasn’t wearing his press badge. Komelkov said he had shown his press card – a fact he could not prove, since the police protocol did not say anything about that, and the testimony he had given in writing had vanished without a trace from the case file. That turned out enough for the judge to uphold the Dzerzhinsky district court decision (of 28 January) and to turn Komelkov’s protest down in line with Administrative Code Article 30.7.

“There is no evidence in the case file proving you had your press card on you as of the moment of your detention,” she said explaining her decision. “You may receive a copy of the complaint in a two weeks’ time, and I’ll explain to you the procedure for filing a protest with a court of appeals.”

“The case file brought to the district court along with the arrested journalist on 28 January did not contain any evidence of his having breached public order,” Romanenko said. “There was no audio or video recording featuring him swear, nor a photo picture of the city property he had allegedly damaged – nothing at all beyond a false protocol the police officers had made. The case file documents did not say a word about Komelkov’s being a newspaper correspondent. The evidence the arrested journalist gave in court was disregarded. The forged protocol turned out the sole irrefutable proof of his guilt for everyone today.”



RJU holds seminar for regional journalists in Vladivostok

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Russian Journalists’ Union has held a seminar for Far Eastern journalists in Vladivostok, for the first time in many years bringing together at such a high level media representatives from the Kamchatka Peninsula, Magadan, Sakhalin Island and the Maritime Region. The organisers were represented by RJU Secretaries Aleksandr Kopeika, Pavel Gutiontov, Leonid Nikitinsky and Vladimir Kasyutin, as well as the prominent lawyer Galina Arapova, head of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre.

The topics for discussion included problems facing the regional media community and modern political writing; journalist defence and security; journalism and corruption in the media; economic independence and contracted reporting; the development of media models; and ways of improving the design of publications.

Arapova’s report on media legislation, judicial practices in settling media-related disputes, journalist defence in court, and practices of the European Court of Human Rights attracted considerable attention and caused numerous questions from journalists, editors and press service officials.

During a round table at the Maritime Region Court of Arbitration, the prominent investigative journalist Leonid Nikitinsky suggested discussing the topic “Jurors’ Club”, which the attending journalists, judges, analysts and jurors found very interesting. Such a discussion of judges-journalists-jurors relations was held in the region for the first time ever, but participants hope to further it in the course of future Jurors’ Club meetings.

Guild of Analytical Journalists in Voronezh releases anthology of publications

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Vononezh Guild of Analytical Journalists last week presented an anthology of works by political writers, including local authors from the ranks of Guild members. The publications, most of which had earlier been carried by Voronezh-based media, address a variety of social problems. The group of authors includes editors and journalists contributing to local newspapers, magazines and web publications.

The anthology is the first project of the Guild, a non-for-profit association established in Voronezh last year. The organisation’s main task is to focus journalists’ attention in a constructive way on the region’s outstanding social, economic and political problems, Vladimir Tulupov, the Guild’s president and dean of Voronezh State University’s School of Journalism, told the GDF.

Statement by Saratov Public Foundation in Defence of Glasnost and Freedom of Information (Volga)

Threat to freedom of expression

A series of events in Saratov in late January-early February were indicative of flagrant violations of the federal law “On the Media”, accompanied by arbitrary practices and physical violence against journalists.

1. On 28 January, a reporter for the newspaper Bogatey was not admitted to a meeting of members of Condominium 5 (head manager V. Koshelkov; board chairwoman L. Galimova) of the Frunzensky District Association of Condominiums (board chairman V. Fadeyev; director T. Uglova) – on the pretext that the meeting was a closed event, which was untrue.

2. On 29 January, before the opening of a meeting of members of Condominium 1 (head manager A. Usynin; board chairman V. Fadeyev), belonging to the same Association, reporters for the newspaper Gazeta Nasha Versiya were attacked by security guards, who cracked down on the photo correspondent in an attempt to tear away and break his camera. When the second reporter stepped in to prevent that action, the guards pushed both journalists out into the street, where one of the guards punched the correspondent several times in the face.

3. On 31 January, reporters for several regional media were barred from attending a meeting of members of Condominium 6 (head manager V. Kalashnikov; board chairwoman O. Markelova) of the Frunzensky Condominium Association.

4. On 1 February, during a meeting of members of Condominium 2 (head manager S. Timoshenko; board chairwoman E. Korneyeva), men in facial masks attacked a cameraman for REN TV-Saratov and nearly broke his expensive video camera. The unknown men’s actions were recorded with photo, video and audio apparatus.

5. On 9 February, correspondents for some media were not admitted to Saratov State Agrarian University’s conference room, where a new rector was to be elected, the Vzglyad-Info news agency reported. The conference of scientists and pedagogues was covered only by “insider” reporters, according to Olga Popova, deputy rector in charge of educational and social work. The deputy rector for security, Police General (ret.) Vladimir Khodzheisa, who was guarding the building from “outsiders”, told one of his subordinates in a rude form to kick the “unwanted” journalists out.

In connection with those brazen violations of journalists’ constitutional rights by the above-named officials, the Saratov Foundation has this to declare:

The actions of the above officials, who prevented journalists from doing their job, fall under the effects of Article 58 of the RF Media Law, stipulating that, “Infringement of the freedom of mass information, i.e. interference in any form by individuals, government officials or organisations, or public associations, with the lawful activity of […] journalists, including by […] imposing restrictions on contacts with a journalist or on his/her work to impart information, except for data constituting state, commercial or other secrets specially protected by law […], shall entail legal, administrative, disciplinary or other liability as provided for by Russian Federation legislation.”

However, known instances of “justice done” to persons hampering journalists’ efforts to gather information indicate that Russian legislation fails to provide in full measure for the bringing to justice in real terms of government officials, organisations and public associations preventing journalists from doing their lawful professional work.

In this connection, the Saratov Public Foundation in Defence of Glasnost and Freedom of Information hereby resolutely protests against this demonstrative neglect of the constitutional norms guaranteeing everyone’s freedom to gather and impart information, and urges the journalistic community to work out regional legislative initiatives establishing standards of liability for interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities, as set forth in Article 58 of the federal law “On the Media”.

Aleksandr Nikitin, Aleksandr Sveshnikov,
Saratov Public Foundation in Defence of Glasnost and Freedom of Information



The Glasnost Defence Foundation on 20 February received from the Perm-based newspaper Permskiye Sosedi the following report on renewed attempts to stifle freedom of expression in the city:

“Police in the Industrialny district of Perm have confiscated part of the print run of Permskiye Sosedi with reference to a decision passed by the district electoral committee.

“However, a posting on the regional police department’s website threw light on the real motive behind the seizure. It said, ‘The newspaper issue featured negative information about the Perm Region government and some political parties.’

“It is futile to try to explain to the police that the regional government is not participating in any election campaign and that the journalists therefore are entitled to publish negative and critical information about it.

“The ongoing elections to the Perm City Duma are expected to be of key importance to the newly-appointed Governor Viktor Basargin. Permskiye Sosedi has carried a series of analytical articles on the subject. The newspaper is part of the Permsky Obozrevatel (PO) media group, and those publications were its own initiative.

“‘Total lawlessness is the most accurate definition of what is going on,’ PO chief editor Tatyana Sokolova said. ‘Permskiye Sosedi is an analytical bulletin, and I don’t see any reason at all why it was seized. Yesterday I had a late-night phone call from distributors, who told me police had stopped their car, told them to open the trunk and simply taken away about a thousand copies of the newspaper. Earlier today, police officers paid visits to the printing house and the newspaper office to question staffers. They did not show any electoral committee decision and have never even read it themselves, we think.’

“‘The law allows the journalists to inform the readers about elections,’ Sokolova said. ‘Permskiye Sosedi set forth the full state of affairs on the eve of the vote, with detailed analysis of available information about the candidates, as required under the law. I think the picture we drew was full and objective. We explained which political forces were behind each candidate, and how the election returns might affect Governor Basargin’s positions. The readers get comprehensively informed about elections as such, without positive or negative bias toward any of the candidates.’

“‘When I asked an electoral committee representative why they had banned that newspaper issue as unlawful, he said it was because it featured a campaign leaflet upside down,’ she said. ‘But we put it in only to provide an example of ‘black’ PR, having blackened the candidate’s name and painted his face over on the photo portrait. Did they recognize him by his ears, I wonder?’

“‘Of course, no expert study of the image was ordered; the committee members imposed the ban simply because they thought it was the right thing to do,” Sokolova said. “What if they were mistaken?’”

Digest editor’s note: The GDF on 20 February sent Perm Region Prosecutor A. Belykh a message urging him “to interfere in the conflict around the newspaper Permskiye Sosedi”, because only a court may rule to have a print run seized.

As a result, a justice of the peace decided on 26 February that the seizure of the Permskiye Sosedi print run was unlawful; he closed the administrative case started by the police in response to the Industrialny district electoral committee’s complaint.


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;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

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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