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CAPSULE REPORT: Media rights violations registered by GDF's Monitoring Service in 2008, legal claims against journalists and media particularly worrisome

(GDF/IFEX) - The following is a 19 January 2009 GDF press release:

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on Russian Federation (RF) territory in 2008

Last year, journalists were attacked, detained, threatened and prosecuted on a regular basis, nearly every month, and habitually denied access to information. The level of interference with web publications remained high, and the number of confiscations of photo, video, audio equipment and computers kept steadily growing.

Instances of criminal pressure on journalists and censorship somewhat decreased because of the ever-expanding self-censorship practices. Against the background of the crisis-stricken economy, closures of media outlets increased in number.

A total of 1,450 media-related conflicts were registered in 2008 versus 1,502 in 2007 and 1,345 in 2006, including:

Deaths of journalists - 5 (Elena Shestakova, reporter, newspaper Pyat Uglov, St. Petersburg; Ilyas Shurpayev, correspondent, Channel One, Moscow; Gadzhi Abashilov, head of TV/Radio Company "Daghestan", Makhachkala; Magomed Yevloyev, owner and editor-in-chief of website Ingushetia.ru, Ingushetia; Telman (Abdullah) Alishayev, host of the Peace to Your Home TV show on TV-Chirkey Channel, Makhachkala), versus 8 deaths in 2007 and 9 in 2006

Missing journalists - 2 (Vadim Shevtsov, former crime reporter and a press service official with the Irkutsk Region Department of the RF Emergency Situations Ministry, Irkutsk, and Yuri Guselnikov, correspondent for the web portal Bolshoi_novosibirsk.ru)

Attacks on journalists - 69, versus 75 in 2007 and 69 in 2006

Attacks on media offices - 7, versus 11 in 2007 and 12 in 2006

Instances of censorship - 21, versus 33 in 2007 and 28 in 2006

Legal claims against journalists and media - 47, versus 46 in 2007 and 48 in 2006

Illegal sacking of editors or journalists - 13, versus 12 in 2007 and 16 in 2006

Detention by police, FSB, etc. - 78, versus 140 in 2007 and 75 in 2006

Legal claims against journalists and media are a source of particular concern.

A total of 236 claims were lodged in 2008, worth a total of RUR 586,844,543, which is on average RUR 2,486,629 per claim (1,000,000 RUR = approx. US$30,500). A total of 48 claims were satisfied, with RUR 9,500,500 paid in moral damage compensation (on average, RUR 197,927 per claim).

The relevant figures for 2007 were 220 claims worth a total of RUR 231,437,503 (on average, RUR 1,051,988 per claim). Of those, 64 claims were satisfied, with RUR 5,636,350 paid in moral damage compensation (on average, RUR 88,067 per claim).

The amounts of compensation both claimed and awarded grew substantially.

Denials of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 280, versus 238 in 2007 and 240 in 2006

Threats against journalists and media - 35, versus 27 in 2007 and 13 in 2006

Ejection of publication, etc. from its premises - 5, versus 7 in 2007 and 7 in 2006

Refusal to print (or distribute) media - 30, versus 34 in 2007 and 50 in 2006
Disruption of TV or radio broadcasts - 21, versus 27 in 2007 and 18 in 2006

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run - 31, versus 92 in 2007 and 28 in 2006

Media closure - 41, versus 15 in 2007 and 26 in 2006

Interference with Internet publications - 40, versus 41 in 2007

Issue of duplicate, i.e. rival, publications - 13, versus 14 in 2007

Damage to photo, video and audio apparatus and computers - 31

For further details, see (Russian only): http://www.gdf.ru/monitor/2008/2008.shtml