Gartungism in Russia: Block or incarcerate. Why try to prove innocence?
Five years ago officials mentioned in journalistic investigations defended their reputation in court. But now they prefer to use punitive mechanisms.
Bribe, intimidate, block, detain, cut off air – this is how Russian officials now act to suppress dissenting mass media. The Russian media sphere has reconfirmed the biased nature of this trendy fashion again after the recent news: Valery Gartung, a Chelyabinsk parliamentary, decided that the leading Urals news agency URA.ru is slandering his crystal clear biography in its publications and submitted an application to the Head of the regional General Administration of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA) asking to find in journalists’ actions attributes of participation in an organized crime group. The leader of Chelyabinsk branch of Spravedlivaya Rossia (the Just Russia) Party believes that journalists, including the CrimeRussia, “being under the criminal influence of Ura.ru”, allegedly hamper his re-election to the State Duma.
Journalists experience huge pressure from such gartungs, they are afraid to lose their job and get troubles from law enforcement authorities (which openly support corrupt officials). They have to make a tough choice. Often journalists choose not in favor of their conscience and professional duty – but this is understandable
As it is known, recently the CrimeRussia had experienced the pressure of so-called administrative resource which is used with full power by such gartungs. In the night into July 12, 2016, the CrimeRussia was quietly blocked by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) based on a decision of the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow. After a brief investigation, we realized that we had been shut down contrary to the procedure established by the law that includes notification of the defendant via court. The official reason for the blocking was alleged disclosure of personal data (this is about a photo available for public access!). This trick allows to shut down – swiftly and quietly – all RuNet information resources. Is it nonsense? No guys, apparently, this is our twisted reality.
Five years ago officials mentioned in journalistic investigations defended their reputation in court. If the official’s face was indeed in the trough, it would be risky for him to go to Themis for justice. Now the situation is different: nobody even attempts to refute media publications; law enforcement authorities conduct a very formal check of facts reported in the publication and then start bombarding the editorial board with scary inquiries. Officials, who feel their permissiveness and believe that they are special, simply try to bribe media to silence. Too bad, but some media are unpurchaseable. For instance, the CrimeRussia had received such offers more than once. Representatives for various important persons contact us on the regular basis and offer to remove published materials in exchange for sums that sound enormous for journalists. Our current record is 300 thousand dollars. It is necessary to note that we contact persons mentioned in our investigations in advance and offer them to outline their position – but get rejections and sometimes face blatant rudeness.
So, in fact the journalists offer people suspected of corruption a free microphone to clear their name – but the people refuse. So, why do they get upset later? It is a fair play.
When an attempt to remove an unwanted publication in exchange for money fails, the Plan B goes into effect – threats of lawsuits and complaints to law enforcement authorities. This is exactly how Spravedlivaya Rossia (the Just Russia) member Gartung has acted: he claimed that URA.ru is a subdivision of an organized crime group posting slanderous inventions, discrediting his personality and activities, for remuneration from interested parties (i.e. his political rivals). Like most deputies, officials, and other people of power, Gartung did not try to prove his rectitude legally; he has chosen a simpler way – used the punitive mechanism which is now available – due to the detached attitude of national leaders – for all such gartungs.
This trick allows to shut down – swiftly and quietly – all RuNet information resources. Is it nonsense? No guys, apparently, this is our twisted reality.
If URA.ru stops its publications about the cocky member of Spravedlivaya Rossia (the Just Russia) Party, everybody would get the point: he managed to shut the editorial board’s mouth. Mass media is a huge industry involving millions of people. All of them need to maintain themselves and their families. Journalists experience huge pressure from such gartungs, they are afraid to lose their job and get troubles from law enforcement authorities (which openly support corrupt officials). They have to make a tough choice. Often journalists choose not in favor of their conscience and professional duty – but this is understandable.
5. Conduct a check for possible criminal liaisons and subordination to RIA URA.ru of the following periodicals: thisentry.ru, sprintnews.ru, crimerussia.com, vk.com/grizzlynohead, grizzlynohead.livejournal.com, 1nnc.net, pravdaurfo.ru, 66.rodina.news.
6. If the facts of committing the above-mentioned crimes are determined, initiate a criminal case and notify the complainant.
Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation V.K. Gartung
Alas, this phenomenon hampering the freedom of speech becomes more and more common and destructive in Russia. Gartungs use this mechanism to suppress media, while the government supports not us – denouncers of corrupt officials – but the corruptionists. One hand washing the other. But we, being fully aware of this, do not give up and encourage the citizens of Russia, including our fellow journalists, not to be afraid to write and speak truth. From our side, we promise to examine the personality and activities of Deputy Valery Gartung closely and thoroughly and publish our findings in the nearest future.
Lieutenant General Oleg Troshin announced he is going to retire in May 2018. He is doing it following a decision taken a year ago – not due to non-existent issues with the agency reported by some local media outlets.