Tag Archives: Moscow

Guardian: How Luke Harding became the reporter Russia hated

The Guardian’s former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding has a lively piece up on his time as the city’s harassed-western-journalist-in-chief.

Ahead of the publication of a book by Harding on his quarrels with Russia’s security forces, he describes being intimidated and having his flat regularly broken into, and his deportation and Russia’s u-turn in letting him back in.

There could be no doubt: someone had broken into my flat. Three months after arriving in Russia as the Guardian’s new Moscow bureau chief, I returned home late from a dinner party. Everything appeared normal. Children’s clothes lying in the corridor, books piled horizontally in the living room, the comforting debris of family life. And then I saw it. The window of my son’s bedroom was wide open…

Read the full article on Guardian.co.uk at this link.

Index on Censorship: Russian journalist defeats libel claim

A Russian journalist, who was placed into an induced coma after being beaten in Moscow last year, has defeated a libel claim against him after speculating on the identity of his attackers, according to Index on Censorship.

Kommersant’s political correspondent Oleg Kashin spent five days in a coma after he was attacked outside his apartment in November.

According to Index, a Moscow court ruled in favour of Kashin as it could not be proven that accusations were made as factual statements.

The attack itself sparked an open letter from 26 media outlets and journalists calling on the president to ensure greater protections for journalists, while the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ executive director also gave a statement condemning the attack and calling for action.

Related content:

Living in limbo: Almost 70 journalists exiled in past year says CPJ

Iraq tops impunity index for fourth time over unsolved journalist killings

Austrian journalist fights to uncover political advertising spend

 

Moscow Times: Harding’s chilling effect

Following the brouhaha over Guardian Moscow correspondent Luke Harding’s deportation from Russia (and subsequent overtures of friendship from the country and explanations that it was all a big mistake), the Moscow Times takes a sharp look at some of the likely reasons behind Russia’s actions. (Other than the explanation from a spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry that “This is a technical matter and I do not think that it deserves so much commotion”).

The piece also looks at some of the other cases of foreign journalists being refused entry to the country, more than 40 between 2000 and 2007 according to the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations.

When Harding was denied entry after trying to pass through passport control with a valid visa, an airport security official told him, “For you, Russia is closed.”

Very well put. Russia truly is a closed society — and not only for Harding.

Full story on the Moscow Times at this link.

‘The Russification of WikiLeaks’: Crowdsourcing the fight against Russia’s casual corruption

Russia has a peculiar attitude to the whole Wikileaks affair. While the rest of the world debates whether Julian Assange is a hero or a reckless criminal, or whether confidential information should stay that way or not, Russians mostly meet every new cable from the US embassy in Moscow with an apathetic sigh.

Virtual mafia state, you’re saying? Oh please! Is that really a secret? To millions of Russians it definitely isn’t. Corrupt high-ranking officials publicly accused of their crimes not only keep their posts but often get promoted. So you can leak whatever you like, it won’t make any difference. If you’re lucky, you’ll stay alive and out of prison. But the subject of your scoops, investigations and revelations won’t even flinch, let alone resign or even publicly apologise.

Another problem with the leaked documents is that the majority of these cables are, let’s face it, unbearably tedious and written in dry bureaucratic lingo. It’s highly unlikely that anyone except for professional journalists assigned to the task will read them, especially in the case of the Russian audience which has to do so in a foreign language. The majority of Russian’s have to rely on Wikileaks’ official representative in Russian media, a weekly magazine called Russian Reporter, which has been criticised over the veracity of its coverage of the embassy cables release.

But despite the WikiLeaks cables being properly available to only a small portion of the Russian audience, and interest in the Russification of WikiLeaks being generally low, a Russian version site that sprung up recently turned out to be so popular that it crashed several times under the burden of requests in the first few days after the launch. Ruleaks.net, which was set up by the Pirate Party of Russia, has already been quoted in dozens of Russian-language media all over the world. It’s hard to say exactly why, but I can explain the motivation that drives dozens of volounteer translators to help Ruleaks.net, myself included.

First of all, it helps you feel like you are a part of something important, even though your name never appears anywhere – the website operates on a strictly anonymous policy. Secondly, I get to read all the leaks that I otherwise wouldn’t – after all, I’m now doing it for a common cause, not for own amusement. And the potential for journalistic self-improvement is enormous: in the course of two days and a couple of translated leaks I learned the full nomenclature of tags and notes in classified documents and now can crack these cryptic combinations of letters and numbers like nuts.

But the best thing about Ruleaks is its technological basis, an innovative crowdsourcing platform Powercrowd.ru, which allows multiple translators to work on a single leak which may be too big for one to handle. Vadim Likholetov, Powercrowd.ru’s developer, says the project wasn’t originally intended to be used exclusively in conjunction with Ruleaks, but it’s a great opportunity to ‘break in’ a tool that is versatile enough to tackle any similar task.

Crowdsourcing, it seems, is finally catching on in Russia. Online anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny, who is proudly hailed as ‘our very own WikiLeaks’ (although his methods are different from Assange’s, as Navalny only publishes legally obtained documents), has been extensively blogging about all kinds of corruption and injustice in Russia for several years. He has 27,000+ subscribers to his blog and one of his latest posts – on alleged widespread embezzlement at a state-owned oil company – gathered the maximum amount of comments allowed by Livejournal.com: 10,000.

Quickly realising that he alone would be overwhelmed with the amount of work which largely consists of meticulous skimming through thousands of pages of official documents, Navalny asked his readers if they could help him out. Several months later, rospil.info was launched. The URL is a clever pun: the name of every state corporation in Russia begins with Ros-, and the widely used euphemism for embezzlement is ‘raspil’, literally ‘sawing’ – hence the two saws in the eagle’s paws on the logo.

This is a crowdsourced effort to expose the ‘sawing’ of state funds through fake auctions; people skim through the website on which all bids for government purchases are announced, post suspicious ones on rospil.info and then have volounteer experts to look through them. So far, in a couple of weeks since the launch, the results are noteworthy: fake auctions worth £210 million have been exposed and hastily canceled. And all of this with near-zero budget.

Similar projects are springing up everywhere now: Fiodor Gorozhanko from St.Petersburg launched zalivaet.spb.ru (‘We’re drowning!’), a website where anyone can mark on a map the location of a leaking roof, the problem which the city’s inefficient and corrupt authorities can’t or don’t want to handle, while another maps potholes, etc. And since none of these initiatives have yet reported any pressure from the authorities whose incompetence they are pointing out, perhaps those up above are finally realising that exposing flaws in the state’s fabric might be actually good for it.

Journalism Daily: Custodial sentences for data breaches proposed, ONA awards finalists announced

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RNW: Dutch journalist takes Russia to ECHR

TV reporter Jeroen Akkermans is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the country’s attach on the Georgian city of Gori last August.

Akkermans joins a number of complainants in the case, which was originally brought by relatives of those killed in the attack.

Akkermans’ colleague Stan Storimans was killed while reporting from the Russian-Georgian border for RTL television.

via Dutch journalist takes Moscow to court | Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Metro International betting on newspaper growth in emerging markets

Metro International shares have plummeted on news of increased losses and a prospective bid falling through, but CEO, Per Mikael Jensen, remains optimistic.

“It was not a good quarter, but we could have done much worse,” Jensen told me, after the company posted grim financial news this morning.

Its net losses for the first quarter (Q1) of 2009 more than doubled compared to the same period last year, from 6.4 million euros to 15.3 million euros, and year-on-year net revenues decreased 24 per cent to 55.6 million euros from 73.4 million euros in Q1 2008.

The freesheet giant also announced that a mystery bid, which led the company to postpone seeking a rights issue to raise more capital earlier this year, had been stranded on the bidder’s inadequate financing arrangements.

The news caused Metro shares to fall sharply, but when I talked to Jensen, he professed to take comfort in the share doing better than before the bid emerged in February.

“I think people were calculating on a divestment,” he said, adding that he was not sure if the timing of the rights issue, which will now go ahead, would be any worse than two or three months ago.

In January, Metro shocked the market by closing its fully owned operation in Spain, which published the free daily newspaper Metro in seven Spanish cities, with immediate effect. However, in the last few months the company, which has 81 editions in 22 countries, has launched titles in Moscow and Mexico’s second city, Monterrey.

“It’s been our expressed strategy to grow in Russia, Asia and Latin America, markets that are not as mature as the European, for some time now,” Jensen said.

Read more about the consequences of the recession for free newspapers here.

Reuters: Timeline of the Politkovskaya murder trial – three accused walk free

“The three men accused of helping murder Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya were found not guilty on Thursday by a Russian court,” Reuters reports.

Follow this link for a Reuters timeline of the Politkovskaya murder trial.

The Guardian reports that “a fourth defendant, Pavel Ryaguzov, a lieutenant colonel in Russia’s FSB spy agency, was acquitted in a separate but related case”.

SND.org: World’s Best Design Awards for five papers

“In its 30th annual ‘The Best of Newspaper Design™ Creative Competition,’ the Society for News Design has named four newspapers from Europe and one from Mexico as ‘World’s Best-Designed Newspapers,™” the organisation’s website reports.

This year’s SND30 five top ‘World’s Best-Designed Newspapers™’ are:

  • Akzia, Moscow, Russia, biweekly, circulation 200,000
  • Eleftheros Tipos, Athens, Greece, daily, circulation, 86,000
  • Expresso, Paço de Arcos, Portugal, weekly, circulation 120,000
  • The News, Mexico City, daily, circulation 10,000
  • Welt am Sonntag, Berlin, weekly, 400,000

Full story at this link…

Politkovskaya trial: ongoing, open and public

After ruling that press and public would be banned from the courtroom for the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial, the Moscow military court has now said that the trial will be open after all, RSF reports. You can also follow Luke Harding at the Guardian. ‘We may actually see the judge firing himself,’ he reports in this this short audio clip.