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PUBLIC EXAMINATION
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ANATOMY OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH: A PUBLIC EXAMINATION

Map of Human Rights IN RUSSIA
THE IDEA AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION

The idea of the Anatomy of Freedom of Speech project was first conceived in 1998. Throughout that year journalists were fighting for the survival of the Law on State Support of the Mass Media, which provided independent media at least some chance of survival.

There was confrontation between those who believed that the state should support "good" media, expressing the "correct" official point of view, and those who considered freedom of speech to be an indivisible principle and any attempt to draw a line between "good" and "bad" media to portend the introduction of censorship and the end of freedom of speech. In the end, the journalistic community succeeded in defending its law.

The editor-in-chief of the newspaper Soviet Kalmykia Today, Larisa Yudina, was killed in May 1988. The newspaper was the only organ in the republic to oppose violations of human rights in Kalmykia.

Her murder demonstrated the weakness of Russian democracy and highlighted three relatively straightforward points:

1: Russia has more or less respectable legislation proclaiming human rights on the federal level, and yet almost cannibalistic conditions on the regional level. Real life is based not on federal laws but on these conditions. Each Russian region applies the law at its own will. This is not the case, for example, in the USA or Poland.

2: Freedom of speech, like all human freedoms, is a very fragile flower. Society needs to nurture it constantly. This fragile flower cannot grow on its own. If left to do so, democratic freedoms will gradually slide into an authoritarian regime and dictatorship. Society must continually strive to strengthen freedom and democracy.

3: In standing up for our rights and freedoms, each of us is forced to deal with the bureaucratic system on an individual basis. In this confrontation, we are clearly not on equal footing. We need a complete and cohesive system of human rights in order to defend ourselves against that bureaucracy.

How should it be organized?

Firstly, it must be able to expose any factors which facilitate violations of human rights.

Secondly, it must identify and expose those individuals who facilitate violations of human rights.

Thirdly, the system must rely on facts, documents and figures and not on opinions and estimates.

Fourthly, it must be able to measure the extent to which human rights and civil liberties in each region are upheld. If we accept that this level varies across different regions, then it can be measured.

This was the thinking behind the establishment of the Map of Human Rights in Russia. The first step on this road was the creation of a map of freedom of speech, or to be more precise, a map of freedom of the press. This was chosen as our starting point because freedom of speech plays such a vital role in the system of human rights and civil liberties - without it, violations of other rights can not be exposed.

Now that the research is complete, Russian society is equipped with a nationwide map of press freedom.

It was originally planned that the map would be made up of three colors: sky-blue for regions with favorable conditions for development of press freedom; navy blue for regions with both favorable and unfavorable conditions; and dark purple for "informational black holes", i.e. regions with unfavorable conditions for press freedom.

Surprisingly, it was discovered that there were no favorable regions in Russia, so sky-blue does not appear on the map. The project researchers believed that the analysis of the initial results would enable them to achieve several interrelated objectives. First of all, the authors wish to shape public opinion regarding obstacles to press freedom. Secondly, using that public opinion, they intend to urge those in power to change the conditions which threaten press freedom. Thirdly, it is essential to bring the results of this research to journalists to teach them how best to use the rights granted them by federal legislation.

It goes without saying that in drawing up the freedom of speech map, evaluating human rights and assessing the work of local authorities, the authors are aware that the study's quantitative results and final evaluations are conditional. It is important at this stage to make a distinction between those facts which may be considered indisputable and those which are only relative.

Indisputable facts are those facts and information about violations of freedom of speech which arise directly from research activities (there may be some inaccuracy, but this should be regarded as a fault in the research and not in the methodology).

Equally, a general tendency in a region can be regarded as indisputable. A region where the level of freedom of speech is rated at 10% undoubtedly has more problems than one with a rating of 35%. This can be borne out by facts. Results considered relative are those derived from the a priori assumptions used in the development of the research methodology.

Those a priori assumptions are as follows: Firstly, all violations of freedom of speech found in legislation have equal weight in the research. For example, censorship in local laws is given the same weight as the unlawful restriction of accreditation. Obviously, these items cannot be compared from the point of view of the threat they pose to freedom of speech, but "weight coefficients" are very complex and vulnerable. They are subjective and could complicate the research, rendering it opaque and difficult to read. The authors of the project believe that every deviation from federal law that leads to discrimination against the media could lead to seri-ous consequences. For this reason, the policy of giving equal weight to all violations is, in general, well-founded. Secondly, federal legislation on mass media is taken to be infallible. This is of course a somewhat formal statement, but it does prevent subjectivity, provides a solid basis upon which to develop methodology and prevents the project from being turned into a discus-sion club.

There is one final important assumption. Freedom of speech has three guardians: those in power, the mass media and civil society. The government creates the legal conditions to establish an environment in which freedom of speech can exist. Mass media and the civilian population fill this environment with the free flow of information. They are also responsible for the quality of information created and consumed. In its first stage the study did not dwell upon the analysis of the second and third guardians of freedom of speech but focused only on policy and legislation affecting mass media. So, to be more precise in terminology, we should term the results of the first stage of the project "a map of the state of press freedom." During the second stage we analyzed how these conditions changed over the course of one year; particularly after the results of the study had been published.

The main revelations of the second stage were significant changes in research methodology. While the first stage of the project was devoted to measuring press freedom, in the second stage, along with quantitative methods, we also made wide use of qualitative ones.

The first stage established a measurement of the freedom of mass media in each region.

During the second stage it was important to find out what those different levels of freedom depended upon. For this reason we researched various aspects of the mass media environment: the media density of each region; media conflict rate; and the structure of regional mass media budgets.

The project analyzed regional media markets, the extent of their development, media participation in economic life and the marketability of media products in the various regions.

However, the freedom of the media remained the main subject of research in the second stage of the project. The difference was that, in contrast to the first stage, we scrutinized all its aspects, whether legal, economic, financial or professional. We recognized the urgent need to get an integrated, multi-level picture of the different mass media models operating in the various regions. A classification of mass media models was worked out based on the analysis of regional mass media and the extent of their development.

This analysis produced seven mass media models. Three of these were Soviet models (authoritarian, paternalistic and modernized), with the others being the market, transitional, confrontational and depressive media models.

Each of these models helps us to understand the nature and functions of mass media in every region. These parameters differ from region to region, as does the degree of media freedom engendered by each of the seven models.

Hundreds of people from each region and republic helped in conducting the research.

The project was completed thanks to the coordinated activities of the Union of Journalists of Russia, The Glasnost Defense Foundation, ANO Internews, an independent nonprofit organization, The Mass Media Law and Policy Center (MMLPC), The National Institute of Socio-psychological Studies (NISPI), the Data Access Commission, The Union of Print Materials Distributors, and The National Association of TV Broadcasters (NAB).

Alexei Simonov, Manana Aslamazyan, Andrei Milekhin, Joseph Dzyaloshinsky, Andrei Richter, and Olga Nikulina developed the concepts and methodology of the project.

Vera Efremova and Alexander Ratinov, experts from the Glasnost Defense Foundation, analyzed local regulations on accreditation during the first stage of the project and Maria Varfolomeeva, an expert from the Public Expertise Institute, carried out the second stage of the research.

Fyodor Kravchenko and Marina Savintseva of the MMLPC did comparative research on local legislation in the first stage of the project under the guidance of Joseph Dzyaloshinsky.

Fieldwork (on-site data collection) was carried out by a regional network coordinated by NISPI with staff from the Glasnost Defense Foundation, the Russian Union of Journalists and ANO Internews.

Marina Kapelkina, a specialist from the Public Expertise Institute, carried out mathematical analyses and statistical data processing. Natalya Belmas analyzed responses to information requests. Julia Voskresenskaya was responsible for the chapter entitled "Project Development."

The National Circulation Service conducted analysis on regional mass media markets. We would like to thank GfK-VTsIOM and ANO Internews, who carried out groundbreaking research on the regional advertising markets and made the results available to us.

The Moscow-based newspapers Novaya Gazeta, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Nezavisimaya Gazeta and the magazines V Mire Zhivotnykh (World of Animals) and Spros assisted in requesting information from officials.

ANO Internews and NISPI checked the authenticity of information on electronic media using their databases. The Union of Print Materials Distributors made similar checks on data on the distribution of printed information.

Herein is the second complete edition of the research report with a description of methodology, summary tables, maps and profiles of regions where mass media exists. One of the appendices demonstrates how very effective the project is and what its future is.

Other appendices include: a draft model law on Russian regional mass media pre-pared by Mikhail Fedotov and Victor Monakhov; a draft federal law on amendments and additions to the Russian Federal Law on Mass Media drawn up by Mikhail Fedotov. Ap-pendices also contain standardized regulations on accreditation compiled by Vera Efremova.

We hope that the analysis conducted by the project will help us all in navigating the difficult conditions of the Russian media wilderness and that the draft documents mentioned above, once implemented, will allow that wilderness to be tamed.

 

Public EXAMINATION: MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Public Examination is a global project whose goal is to evaluate the level of human rights in the 89 regions of the Russian Federation.

Main hypothesis of the global project

In Russia, the individual's opportunities to exercise his rights are only negligibly related to what federal laws the country passes or what international agreements or conventions it joins. Russia is a large country comprised of smaller countries. The rights of people living in Moscow and, for example, Kalmykia, which has its own laws, differ enormously, and this gap is wider in Russia than in other countries. For easy reference, we have placed the results of each piece of target-area research conducted within the global project in the Map of Human Rights. This is based on a system of indicators demonstrating the anatomy of human rights in each of the 89 regions, territories and republics of the Russian Federation.

Objective of the global project

The main objective of the project was to shape public opinion on human rights issues in Russia and, with the help of this democratic leverage, to encourage authorities to change the situation for the better.

Project Leader

The project was headed by the general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko.



map of press freedom

map of press freedom




PUBLIC EXAMINATION

Evaluation of freedom of speech in Russia


The Public Examination global project started in May 1999. The first stage of the research - evaluation of freedom of speech in Russia - was conducted by the Russian Union of Journalists, the Glasnost Defense Foundation, the National Institute for Socio-psychological Studies, The Mass Media Law and Policy Center and ANO Internews.

I. Main hypothesis of the global project

There are 89 political regimes in Russia, each of which has a different degree of freedom of speech and in each of which the media plays a different role in civil society. Local "rules of play" often have nothing in common with federal legislation. Thus, the role of the media in any particular region often does not correspond to the niche defined by or the autonomy protected by federal legislation.


II. Context of the project

In Russia, people are again facing challenges from the government in the area of free speech as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights: "The right to free expression, the right to receive and disseminate information and ideas." Regional authorities are exerting pressure on independent media companies, turning them into compliant, self-censoring state-run companies. This has led to a situation in which we are given information that is either unreliable or difficult to evaluate, or we are left facing a lack of strict criteria. As a result, the public is more and more coming to see mass media as a tool for settling scores in the battles between those in power, who do not care about the everyday needs of ordinary readers. The press is losing its role as a mediator between society and the authorities and a catalyst for change in society. Its role as a medium for dialogue among public groups has been visibly weakened. This is a major problem, particularly in the run-up to elections. The press shapes public opinion and can often determine a candidate's fate and, consequently, our fate as well.

There is a second, no less important issue. Local authorities are trying to adapt liberal federal legislation to their own needs, issuing repressive local orders that not only restrict press freedom, but also infringe upon our right to freedom of speech. This is leading to the disintegration of the integrated environment for production and dissemination of information. One morning we could wake up and find ourselves no longer citizens of Russia - a country with unified legislation - but the subjects of separate principalities with separate rules of play.


III. PROJECT PROCEDURE (methodology, tools, data collection and systematization)

1. Methodology

We need to deconstruct the mass media in order to evaluate its level of freedom. According to international standards, freedom of speech is the right "to seek, receive, deliver, produce and disseminate information freely by any legal means." So, the notion of freedom of speech has three constituent parts.

The first is the ability to seek and receive information freely. This right is dependent on such indicators as: unrestricted access to information; transparency of executive, representative and judicial authorities; the response of officials to journalists' requests; and the fairness of accreditation requirements. We are able to create an index of the level of free access to information in each region of the Russian Federation by analyzing the local laws which regulate these issues and by studying the practices involved in facilitating access to information.

The second component of freedom of speech is the ability to produce information freely. This freedom depends upon the regional registration regulations (broadcast licenses), local tax and other codes which affect the media's economic activities, and the government's role in regulating access to the means of production, both print and electronic.

The third part is the freedom to disseminate information. Indicators here are the specific conditions created by local administrations to maintain or dismantle their monopoly on media distribution.

2. Tools

The Public Examination project made use of four research tools. The first was an analysis of regional laws regulating media activities. Federal legislation - the RF Constitution and laws on mass media, and the RF Law on State Support to Print and Broadcast Media - served as the starting point in this analysis. The second tool was an analysis of regional accreditation rules for journalists. Here, federal legislation again served as the basis for the research.

The third tool was field research in regional media markets. Experts in print and electronic media collected data on specific media markets: number, circulation and ownership structures of print media; number, capacity and ownership structures of publishing houses; number, signal capacity, coverage area and ownership structures of TV and radio broadcasting companies; and information on the terms and conditions for granting state support to mass media in each market.

The profiles of regional media markets are of course not shaped entirely by the government. Each media market is the product of the cultural traditions of a region, its economy, the unique local relationship between the state and society, the tendency of a region towards a traditional/modernized or agrarian/urban society. We can determine how free non-official information in a region is by evaluating the balance between private and public media compa-nies, as well as between distribution and broadcast companies.

The project team also provided data on the environment established by local administrations for distributors of printed matter, including tax and other privileges for distribution and the number of permits needed to open press outlets.

The fourth research tool used was an information request test. Central and regional mass media sent requests for information to various regional authorities: to the head of the region, territory or republic's administration; to the chairman of the Legislative Assembly; to the regional prosecutor; to the head of the Department or Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as to the head of the Education or Health Department. The aim of these requests was to determine to what extent local authorities comply with the RF Law on Mass Media in different regions (art. 38, 39, 40). According to this law, heads or other representatives of state bodies must provide editorial boards with any information they request.

3. Data collection and systematization

The project staff then processed the data collected with the tools described above into three indices: freedom of access to information; freedom of production of information; and freedom of distribution of information in a given region. By combining these three factors, we can calculate the index of press freedom in a region. We shall now review in more detail the basic principles of data collection and their use in calculating each of the three indices of press freedom.

a) Index of freedom of access to information

The index of freedom of access is calculated as the sum of two indicators: the analysis of official response to requests for information and the evaluation of violations of press freedom in local accreditation regulations.

The RF Law on Mass Media (articles 38, 39, 40) confirms the principle of the transparency of authority and its accountability to society. The law states that mass media companies have the right to request information from state bodies and officials, and that the latter must respond to the requested information within a certain timeframe.

Moreover, the Law on State Secrets and the Law on Information, Its Dissemination and Protection contain a list of information which may not be deemed privileged or withheld from the public.

"Officials who classify such information or file it together with state secrets for the purpose of hiding it, shall be subject to criminal, administrative and disciplinary liability depending on the material and punitive damage caused to society, the state and citizens." (art. 7, RF Official Secrets Act , art.73-74 -RF Law on Mass Media, M., 1996). These laws were our legal basis for testing requests for information.

1871 requests were sent to various officials from different regions. Half of these requests were sent from Moscow on behalf of central mass media organizations, and the rest were sent from local mass media organizations (newspapers, TV and radio companies). All the requests were for information of high public interest which did not fall within the list of classifiable information.

Official reactions to requests were analyzed for the ratio of response to evasion and formalized replies, thus yielding the first component of the index of freedom of access to information.

The second component is the analysis of local accreditation regulations for journalists in the regional government.

The concept of accreditation was introduced into Russian legislation to assist the press in getting information from the government. However, article 48 (Accreditation) defines accreditation very generally, thus giving regional authorities the opportunity to establish their own rules without violating the Law on Mass Media and to infringe upon the rights of journalists.

The analysis of local accreditation rules showed their architects to have used their power not only to establish detailed accreditation procedures, but also to turn this phenomenon into a device to assist local authorities in selecting journalists who were loyal to them. The second component of the index of freedom of access to information was calculated based on the analysis of violations on federal legislation in the area of local accreditation rules.

b) Index of freedom of production of information

The components of freedom of production of information are:

These last four indicators evaluate the rights of citizens stipulated by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights to "obtain, produce and disseminate information irrespective of country." The ratio of government officials to independent experts on regional TV and Radio Licensing Commissions shows the degree of dependence of local TV and Radio companies on the local administration and the extent to which local authorities perceive them as falling within their jurisdictions. In 2000, the Licensing Commissions lost their significance, but we have given their composition as an indicator of government policy.

By analyzing local laws on mass media and local statutes on state media support, it is possible to determine the parameters of the environment in which media production is carried out: on-site registration, tax privileges for the press as a whole or in parts and the procedure by which the state budget allocates money to mass media: whether it favors competition or leads to a monopoly in media production. The index of media production comprises all these indicators.

c) Index of freedom of dissemination of information

Two groups of indicators determine the level of freedom of dissemination of information. The first group comprises various kinds of privileges (or lack thereof) for distributors of printed matter. This is one of the problems Russia is faced with, having inherited highly monopolized structures for the distribution of printed materials from the Soviet Union. This monopoly poses a threat to the freedom and independence of the press. The introduction of privileges and benefits facilitates the raising of funds and boosts competitiveness in this field.

The second group of indicators of freedom of dissemination of information concerns the number of permits needed to set up a newspaper sales outlet. The research showed that there were regions with extremely high bureaucratic pyramids - several dozen permits. This without doubt affects competition and, consequently, diminishes freedom of distribution of information.

We established groups of three experts in each region, territory and republic to collect the necessary data from the 88 regions of the Russian Federation (excluding Chechnya). Each group had one expert on each branch of the media - the electronic and print media - as well as a sociologist responsible for the collection and delivery of information to the headquarters of the Public Examination project.

At the headquarters, staff verified the authenticity and reliability of this data, processed and standardized it and transformed it into indices, tables and maps. They used independent information channels to further check the authenticity of indicators.

For example, three independent sources contributed data on the free dissemination of printed matter. These sources were a Public Examination regional expert and the two sources used by the Union of Printed Matter Distributors, the regional divisions of the Rospechat agency and the regional Department of the Federal Mail Service. An additional request for information was made from the headquarters to minimize discrepancies in data provided by different sources.


IV. Analysis and Conclusions

Color information maps of Russia were compiled on the basis of the research which was converted into the indices discussed above (see the press freedom table). These maps are Freedom of Access to Information, Freedom of Production of Information, Freedom of Dissemination of Information, and a composite map of Press Freedom.

The composite map caused a sensation. We discovered that Russia today has no region with a climate favorable to all the stages in the creation of information product. While two regions have favorable conditions for access to information for the press (Yaroslavl and Murmansk Regions) and one region has a favorable profile for both the production and dissemination of information (Moscow), in not one region do these positive factors coincide to produce a comfortable legislative and political mass media sub-climate.

The composite map of Press Freedom uses two colors, while the maps Freedom of Access to Information, Freedom of Production of Information and Freedom of Dissemination of Information have three colors meaning that there are regions with good, bad and medium indicators.

In other words, Russia today has no regions where the first estate provides the fourth with an environment in which its independence is protected by law. This is the most alarming conclusion drawn by the Public Examination project during its research. Let us take a look at the situation with each of the basic components of freedom of speech.

 
© Public Expertise