“Who is to Blame?” and “What's to be Done?” - High-level discussion on the safety of journalists makes little progress

17 December 2012 

Source: Glasnost Defence Foundation

On Friday 14 December the RF Presidential Council on Human Rights gathered in Moscow to discuss the safety of journalists. 

The meeting was intended to bring together the heads of Russia’s law-enforcement agencies - Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, Investigative Committee Chief Aleksandr Bastrykin – with those who represent and defend journalists in the country and the wider world: RF Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin; Moscow Bar Association Chairman Henry Reznik; RF Journalists' Union President Vsevolod Bogdanov; Glasnost Defence Foundation President Alexei Simonov; and UNESCO Assistant Director-General Janis Karklins among others.

On the agenda was a discussion of how to end impunity and improve legislation and law-enforcement. Those joining the members of the presidential Council on Human Rights, under its chairman Mikhail Fedotov, were due, in particular, to discuss law enforcement and the data of media monitors and reach agreement on working together to tighten journalist security and improve the outcome of official investigations into crimes against journalists. They were also focus on the better use of Article 144 of the Criminal Code. This law prohibits the obstruction of a journalist’s lawful professional activities and was recently expanded to impose tougher sanctions on those using violence against representatives of the media in Russia. 

In the event the discussion focused much of its attention on the protest march to be held in Moscow the following day, on 15 December. A deputy mayor had entertained the presidential Council’s representative Nikolai Svanidze for two and a half hours on Wednesday drinking tea, without settling the differences between human rights activists and the city administration which had refused to permit the planned march. 

Instead of the top law-enforcement officials the event was attended by the usual generals from among their deputies, who read out prepared statements but failed to answer urgent questions from the audience. They did not go beyond angry retorts and comments when queried by the assembled analysts and experts, transforming the day conference into a non-event. 

Interior Minister Kolokoltsev, according to the general who stood proxy for him, was in Kabardino-Balkaria, where he was taking a personal role in the operation to detain the suspected killers of TV presenter Kazbek Gekkiev, murdered there on 5 December. During his stay in Nalchik, it soon turned out, the minister had only announced the identification of one more suspect in the killing and ordered additional security measures at the premises of the State-run Television and Radio Company in the North Caucasian Republic.

The meeting began at noon and was due to end at 4 pm. By 4.30 pm, when the Glasnost Defence Foundation correspondent had to leave, a proposed agreement on closer interaction between the Presidential Council and the Interior Ministry had still been not been signed. Nor had it even been read out to those present ... 

Glasnost Defence Foundation weekly digest, 17 December 2012