Accreditation is an important tool in ensuring
free access to information. The relationship between local
authorities and the press is based on statutory acts, including
acts on the accreditation of the press by federal and municipal
authorities. In the first place, this research will consider
federal laws. Among these are the Russian Federation Law on
Mass Media (hereafter referred to as the Law on Mass Media)
of December 27, 1991 (in the edition of August 5, 2000); the
Federal Law on State Support of the Mass Media and Publishing
Industry of December 1, 1995 (in the edition of October 22,
1998); the Federal Law on Economic Support of Regional (Municipal)
Newspapers of October 14, 1995 (edition of January 2, 2000)
and the Federal Law on Information, Its Dissemination and
Protection of February 20, 1995. And, of course, special attention
was given to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and
international acts ratified by Russia. In many regions of
the Russian Federation, executive and legislative authorities
have approved regulations for the accreditation of journalists.
Aimed at developing and supplementing federal laws, these
regulations should regulate legal relations in the field
of accreditation on the basis of the general principles
stipulated in Article 48 (Accreditation (Article 48. Accreditation.
Editorial offices have the right to apply to a governmental
body, organization, agency or a body of public association
for accreditation of their journalists.
Government bodies, organizations, agencies and public
associations shall accredit the journalists indicated in
the application, provided the editorial offices follow the
regulations established by the above bodies, organizations
The bodies, organizations and agencies that accredit the
journalists are to notify them in advance of their meetings,
sessions and other events, provide them with transcripts,
protocols and other documents and create a favorable environment
for making notes and records.
The accredited journalist has the right to attend meetings,
sessions and other events held by the accrediting bodies,
organization and agencies, unless a decision is taken to
hold a closed session.
Journalists may lose their accreditation if they or their
editorial office violate the regulations for accreditation,
or disseminate inaccurate information that discredits the
accrediting organization, provided this has been confirmed
by a valid court ruling.
Editorial offices' own correspondents are accredited in
accordance with the present article.)) of the Law on Mass
Media. In accordance with these principles, accreditation
has been designed to facilitate journalists' access to information
on the activities of regulatory bodies, make this information
available for citizens, ensure its transparency for society
and promote fruitful interaction with Mass Media.
Research conducted by the Public Examination Project revealed
precisely the opposite trends in regional laws.
The research analyzed 73 documents on accreditation developed
by the regulatory agencies in 51 regions. Its goal was to
determine whether they obeyed the letter and spirit of federal
law. The analysis produced somewhat contradictory results:
after stage 1 of the Public Examination Project had been
implemented, a number of regions enacted new accreditation
regulations in line with federal law and adopted new regulations
for accreditation. However, these regions were in the minority.
One of them was the Omsk Region whose laws underwent partial
changes; interestingly, the Regulations for the Accreditation
of Journalists by the Omsk authorities is the only legal
act enabling journalists to attend events held by the authorities
without accreditation (if they are invited by a leader).
Some amendments were introduced to the regulations for accreditation
by the Penza Region Legislative Assembly, Pskov Region Assembly
of Deputies and Tver Region Legislative Assembly. Among
the measures that were abolished were the ruling by the
mayor of Penza On Accreditation of Mass Media Representatives
by Penza Authorities and the ruling by the Head of the Kostroma
Region On the Regulations for Accreditation of Journalists.
Although a definite trend is in progress to improve regional
laws, none of the acts analyzed is in full accordance with
federal law. Most regional legal acts which were found inconsistent
with federal laws during stage one remained unamended even
after stage two had been implemented. The analysis exposed
the most typical and common discrepancies between regional
accreditation legislation and the Law on Mass Media of the
Russian Federation as well as other statutory acts. I.
Federal regulations for accreditation are violated when
the local regulations:
- require the provision of superfluous information, i.e.
personal information about the accredited journalists.
- discriminate between different media outlets in their
right to accreditation (depending on their founders, location
and the nature of relations between journalists and the
- set arbitrary restrictions on the accreditation of mass
- establish unlawful grounds for denying accreditation.
- accredit journalists together with officials who do
not work for the press.
- set illegal terms and conditions for accreditation.
- do not inform editorial offices of the information they
need to give on their application forms for accreditation,
or about the procedure and terms of its consideration.
- limit the time period for applying for accreditation.
- require excessive information from an editorial office
applying for accreditation.
- enforce a complicated red-tape procedure for considering
Quite often, statutory acts on accreditation do not differentiate
between journalists and individuals that do not work for the
press, such as press-services employees. This is unacceptable,
as only journalists, in their professional capacity, are endowed
by the law with the corresponding rights and responsibilities.
Accreditation is one of these. Nothing of the kind is stipulated
for those who work for press-services. Their activities are
governed by their internal documents. As press-services are
connected with the Mass Media, they need a certain legal basis
to rely on, but this is a quite separate regulatory matter.
Thus, it is illegal to replace the regulations for accreditation
with instructions regulating press-services.
It is hardly worth arguing whether it is justified to
deny accreditation to highly specialized publications, such
as those that contain only advertisements or erotic art.
Even if they require information from time to time, they
could be served on the basis of standard inquiry without
any long-term cooperation in the form of accreditation.
However, information on target audiences, which is sometimes
required by the accrediting body, should not be a decisive
factor in providing accreditation. It is quite sufficient
to submit the data that are required when registering media
bodies in accordance with the Law on Mass Media, Article
10, i.e. their content and/or special focus. An accrediting
organization may explain that it needs to know the target
audience of publications, as the materials of the accrediting
organization published by a certain publication may cause
the accrediting organization to lose its reputation and
induce moral and political damage. These arguments contradict
the whole idea of press equality and freedom as well as
the constitutional principle of ideological diversity.
Sometimes, the authors of the local regulations are too
demanding of the journalists applying for accreditation,
requiring an excessive amount of information. Apart from
first and family names, an editorial office is sometimes
asked to indicate the journalist's position, age, education,
pseudonym, record of service and details of professional
experience and even provide references.
All this is absolutely illegal and unnecessary. Some of
these data are protected by law as personal secrets. According
to the Federal Law on Information, Its Dissemination and
Protection, such information, so-called personal data, is
referred to as "limited access information" and is confidential.
Unauthorized collection and dissemination of such data for
purposes contrary to the law is prohibited.
The Constitution of the Russian Federation acknowledges
the right to personal privacy and guarantees non-interference
of the state authorities in citizens' private lives (Articles
According to many regulations, applications may be considered
and accreditation granted only on condition of the availability
of such data. Thus, personal information in itself can provide
a formal and actual basis for eliminating undesirable applicants.
An accrediting body can deny accreditation to a journalist
because his or her specialization does not correspond with
its primary activity or because of his or her advanced age.
These are cases of unacceptable limitation of journalists'
rights. (Violations of Articles 1, 48, 58 of Law on Mass
It is also illegal to require a journalist to indicate
his or her pseudonym on the application form. This requirement
violates the right stipulated by Article 47, paragraph 12
of Law on Mass Media, in accordance with which the journalist
is entitled to distribute his or her statement and materials
signed in his or her own name, pseudonym or unsigned. Article
15 of the RF Law On Copyright and Related Rights also establishes
an author's right to use his or her writings under his or
her own name, pseudonym or without any name indicated, i.e.
anonymously. The requirement to disclose pseudonyms also
contradicts Article 150 of the Constitution of the Russian
The regulations analyzed contain a number of provisions
that discriminate against certain mass media on various
illegal grounds. One case of such discrimination is when
the accrediting body gives the local press preference in
accreditation if, for example, its governing body is situated
in that particular city. This alienates other publications
distributed nationwide. Although they work on a more global
level, they are discriminated against because they do not
belong to a particular region. This contradicts the principle
of equality that is stipulated in Article 7 of the Law on
Mass Media. It is also unacceptable when the accrediting
body gives priority to those publications whose founders
include federal and local authorities. This makes accreditation
less accessible for the independent press. Discrimination
against media outlets in their right to accreditation depending
on their founders violates Article 48 of the Law on Mass
Discrimination against media in their right to accreditation
depending on their content and special focus is equally
illegal. This could be used as an excuse to eliminate opposition
publications which criticize the accrediting bodies, and
other publications which they prefer not to supply with
information about themselves.
Any preferences and restrictions in the right of the press
to accreditation must be based upon the specific provisions
of the regulations for accreditation. This will help to
eliminate privileges and restrictions that are given arbitrarily
and violate the rights of journalists and the press. For
this reason, the absence of such provisions in the regulations
analyzed is considered unlawful.
Equally unlawful is discrimination against those journalists
who are not permanent members of staff but work freelance,
by authorization or assignment of the editorial offices,
or cooperating with them on a constant basis. Provisions
that accreditation may be given only to staff journalists,
which have been found in a number of regulations, impair
both the rights of the journalists who have professional
status stipulated by the law (see Articles 2-16; Article
52, part 2 of Law on Mass Media) and those of the editorial
offices, who should have the ability to decide, at their
own discretion, who they want to assign as an accredited
journalist (Article 19 and 48 of Law on Mass Media). II.
Journalists' rights are violated when the regulations:
- Limit their access to unclassified documents and materials.
- Set arbitrary time periods for accreditation.
- Limit the right to use non-classified information or
sources of information.
- Limit the time period within which journalists are
allowed to visit an accrediting body.
- Charge the journalists or editorial office with additional
responsibilities that are not stipulated by law.
- Require any special registration to visit the accrediting
- Require the disclosure of pseudonyms.
- Set non-standard requirements that allow arbitrary
interpretation and charge the journalist with the responsibility
of informing the accrediting body of materials prepared.
- Oblige journalists to publish the materials or statements
of accrediting bodies.
- Require journalists to adhere to non-standard legislation
and moral standards.
- Include regulatory provisions on the press that do
not relate to accreditation, but restrict the rights of
- Require additional accreditation for national or international
- Stipulate standards of appearance for those journalists
who are invited.
- Charge the journalist with the responsibility of providing
the accrediting body with the materials published.
One of the most varied parameters in the regulations analyzed
was the period of accreditation. It was rarely granted for
an individual event, but more often for three or six months,
and usually for a one-year period. It rarely occurs that accreditation
is given for a longer period.
Accreditation is a tool that helps to establish long-term
and sustainable cooperation between authorities and the
press. It is meant to facilitate the access of journalists
to the activities of such bodies, ensuring their transparency
for citizens. The period of accreditation stipulated by
the regulations deprives accreditation of this very feature,
while granting administrations and press-services a very
powerful tool to illegally influence editorial offices and
journalists. These procedures threaten the independence
of the press and journalists, as well as the general freedom
of the press. Short periods of accreditation that are set
arbitrarily were considered by the experts to be violation
of Articles 1, 47, 48 of the Law on Mass Media.
Equally unacceptable are regulations requiring journalists
to use only information provided by the press-service of
the accrediting body or, while communicating with officials,
to use only the data that falls within those officials'
competency and to consider any statements outside these
parameters to be private opinion.
Regulations that require accredited journalists to get
a special invitation from the press-service in order to
visit the accrediting body are illegal. Equally unlawful
are regulations requiring mandatory appearance from journalists
invited or summoned to events held by the accrediting body.
Here the situation is reversed. The right of the journalist
to visit the accrediting body (Article 48, Law on Mass Media)
is transformed into his or her obligation while the responsibility
of the accrediting body to ensure this right by notifying
him or her of forthcoming events is transformed into the
right to control the journalist as if he or she were a subordinate
or an obedient employee.
Some regulations for accreditation put journalists and
the press in a dependent position, requiring them to publish
the materials and statements of the accrediting body, submit
copies of materials published and inform them of forthcoming
In accordance with Article 35 of the Law on Mass Media,
an editorial office is only obliged to publish (on a free
of charge basis and within a set time period) a valid judgment
concerning such publications and a statement issued by the
accrediting body concerning this editorial office, as well
as other materials which Russian law stipulates must be
published. Among the latter are, for example, statements
issued by election committees or pre-election materials
distributed in the federal and municipal mass media in accordance
with the federal law On the Election of Deputies to the
State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
The above-mentioned provisions, however, have nothing to
do with accreditation. The same goes for the requirement
to publish the materials of the accrediting body, even if
the latter is among the founders of this particular media
outlet. Although such obligations may be stipulated in the
by-laws or any substituting agreement between the editorial
office and a founder, such relations are binding between
the two parties only and have nothing to do with accreditation,
other media and their rights in this field. For this reason,
it is unacceptable to include a general requirement for
the press to publish the materials and statements of the
accrediting body in the regulations for accreditation.
It is equally unacceptable to oblige journalists to provide
the accrediting body with the materials published. It may
seem desirable to include the accrediting body in the editorial
office's mailing list, but this is a matter of cooperation
and hardly needs to be enforced, especially when attempts
are made to make the journalist personally responsible for
such matters. This makes the journalist feel subordinate,
accountable, inferior to and dependant on the press service's
officials, impairing the journalist's professional independence
and legal rights (Article 47, 58 of Law on Mass Media).
Thus, we consider such an obligation legally unacceptable.
The last rule in this list of illegal requirements obliges
the journalist to inform the accrediting bodies of forthcoming
materials. Here censorship is not only alluded to but manifest.
III. Violations on the part of the accrediting body:
- Failure to fulfill its obligation to inform journalists
- Failure to fulfill its obligation to provide journalists
with protocols, transcripts and other documents.
- Failure to fulfill its obligation to create a favorable
working environment for journalists.
These provisions obliging accrediting bodies should be included
in the regulations for accreditation of journalists in accordance
with Article 48 of the Law on Mass Media of the Russian Federation.
IV. Unlawful withdrawal of accreditation:
- No appeals procedure is stipulated.
- Unlawful grounds and procedures for withdrawal of accreditation.
- Unlawful suspension of accreditation.
- Unlawful revocation of an editorial board's right to
- Unlawful grounds for limitation of accreditation.
Many different grounds for withdrawal of accreditation are
stipulated by the regulations. The threat of depriving journalists
of a source of publicly important information represents a
powerful tool with which to control them. This explains why
there have been so many grounds and procedures invented to
As we know, the law stipulates only two grounds for withdrawing
accreditation: if the journalists or their editorial office
violate the regulations for accreditation, or disseminate
inaccurate information that discredits the accrediting organization,
provided this has been confirmed by a valid court ruling
(Article 48 of Law on Mass Media). Other grounds for withdrawing
accreditation limit the rights and freedoms granted to press
The first of the grounds stipulated by law (violation
of the regulations for accreditation) provides no basis
for unlimited bans and ordinances. In this regard, we would
like to stress that a formal violation of any paragraph
of these regulations is not sufficient to withdraw accreditation.
For this, the paragraph violated should be legitimate, i.e.
it should fully correspond to federal law without containing
any contradictions to it. Otherwise, withdrawal of accreditation
is illegal and may be revoked judicially or by other procedures.
In this regard, we would like to note that measures and
decisions taken by federal and public institutions are legitimate
only if this is expressly indicated in the law.
We have already mentioned that journalists are sometimes
charged with responsibilities that are not stipulated by
the law. One of the possible negative consequences of this
could be that the journalist might lose accreditation if
he or she refuses to exercise those functions. Among these
are non-attendance of events organized by the accrediting
body "without reasonable excuse," or "regular absenteeism,"
or repeated "nonconformist behavior in public places" or
any other breaches of Russian law. Even more specific indications
of violations of the Law on Mass Media, especially Articles
4 and 51, do not provide justification, as withdrawal of
accreditation is not stipulated as a sanction against infringements
on freedom of information and the rights of journalists
in accordance with Article 59 of the Law on Mass Media.
For such cases, the law stipulates other sanctions and other
ways to enforce them.
As for the second grounds stipulated by the law, it is
extended without limit in the regulations on accreditation.
In proposing as grounds for withdrawing accreditation "partial
coverage of the institution's activity, misrepresentation
of an event, dissemination of inaccurate information that
discredits an accrediting organization and causes moral
and political damage to it or its employees etc." the authors
assume the right, which properly belongs only to the court,
to evaluate journalist's writings and take unilateral legally
significant decisions. They do this at their own discretion
and use extremely vague criteria (what is, for example,
"moral and political damage?")
The non-standard definitions that were considered above
are here also used as grounds for withdrawing accreditation.
Among possible examples are provisions "on breaches of journalistic
ethics", "on actions that contradict moral rules" etc.
Unlike legal regulations, moral rules, including professional
ones, are relative and depend on the specific social situation
and a person's moral position. Thus one and the same matter
may receive different evaluations from different ethical
points of view. For this reason, such evaluations are subjective
and controversial. Thus, it is impossible to use them as
the basis of legally important decisions and actions.
In reproducing the provision on dissemination of inaccurate
information that discredit the accrediting organization
with multiple additions and variations, those drafting the
regulations cunningly omit the most important legal requirement:
to confirm this accusation with a valid court ruling. Instead
of this, they establish illegal decision-making procedures:
by a majority of the deputies of the representative body,
by one third of the deputies, by order of the accrediting
body, or by instruction of the press-service. All this leaves
the journalist unprotected against arbitrary administrative
Many regulations prescribe a procedure not stipulated
by any law, i.e. suspension of accreditation, as well as
depriving the editorial office of accreditation for the
violations of its representatives. By law, it is the offender
who should lose accreditation, not the editorial office,
which has right to substitute him or her with another journalist.
Taking the above into account, it seems necessary to include
a procedure in the regulations for appealing against decisions
and actions taken against journalists by the accrediting
body or its officials. This is very important, as the right
of appeal against any action or any decision taken by any
authority or official, including courts or international
bodies, is among the inalienable rights granted by the Constitution
of the Russian Federation and international legislation.
It is a violation of federal law when such provisions
are not included in the regulations for accreditation, as
this may hamper the timely rectification of violations,
the repeal of unjustified rulings and the prevention of
illegal actions against accredited journalists.
Analysis of the documents and indices allowed us to identify
the regions where the rights of journalists have been impaired.
In these regions such legislation affected the Mass Media
policy of both legislative and executive bodies.
Among them are the Republic of Udmurtia (Ordinance on
Accreditation of Mass Media Representatives by the State
Council of the Republic of Udmurtia, Ordinance on the Accreditation
of Mass Media Representatives by the Izhevsk Administration,
Accreditation of Mass Media Representatives by the Izhevsk
City Duma, Ordinance on Accreditation of Mass Media Representatives
by the Glazov Administration, and Regulations on the Accreditation
of Journalists by the Glazov United Council of Deputies
together contain 33 violations of federal laws), Vologda
Region (Ordinance on Accreditation of Journalists by the
Vologograd Regional Duma, Ordinance on Accreditation of
Journalists by the Vologograd Administration, Regulations
on the Accreditation of Journalists by the Vologograd Regional
Administration altogether contain 24 violations of federal
law), Kaliningrad Region (Ordinance on Accreditation of
Mass Media Representatives by the Kaliningrad Regional Administration
and Ordinance on the Accreditation of Mass Media Representatives
by the Kaliningrad Council of Deputies contain 17 violations
of federal law).
Separate mention should be made of The Regulations for
Accreditation of Journalists by the Parliament of the Republic
of Kalmykia and the Resolution by the Parliament of the
Republic of Kalmykia On the Accreditation of Journalists
in the year 2000. The former document does not allow accreditation
of journalists from the non-governmental press and limits
to a great extent the rights of those journalists who are
entitled to accreditation. Almost the entire document contradicts
federal law and the constitution and lacks a number of necessary
provisions stipulated by Article 48 (Accreditation) of the
Law on Mass Media of the Russian Federation. The latter
does not constitute the regulations for accreditation as
they are, but contains two provisions that regulate accreditation
and contradicts federal law. The very letter and spirit
of the Kalmyk documents contradict federal law to such an
extent that they cannot be evaluated by the same system
as other documents. Their purpose is in direct opposition
to the principles of the federal laws on mass media.
All the violations of federal laws revealed by the analysis
of the regional statutory acts on accreditation have been
combined in the following table. The table has three columns:
Violations, Frequency of Violations and Regions where the
violations were recorded. Similar violations were grouped
into 36 sets. The frequency of violations was determined
by analyzing all the articles of the regulations for accreditation
that exist in the region. Thus, the number of violations
may exceed the number of regions.