The Case of Golos: How to resist quasi-legal demands and pressure?

28 June 2013

John Crowfoot

One of the most original forms of media conflict in post-Soviet Russia is to create a look-alike "spoiler" version of a newspaper, thereby forcing the irritatingly independent original to re-register with all the expense, risk and bother that entails.

A stage in the relentless harassment and persecution faced by the indomitable Larisa Yudina in Kalmykia (see side-bar summary "New Media, Old Media" in our 2009 report, "Partial Justice") was that she was forced to re-register her newspaper as "Sovetskaya Kalmykia segodnya" after a new government-sponsored rival stole its long-standing, rightful name. My partner and colleague at the Glasnost Defence Foundation Boris Timoshenko could reel off many more examples from the past twenty years. 

These, thankfully, did not end with a brutal murder. 

Investigation of Yudina's killing in 1998, incidentally, on Yury Skuratov's watch as Prosecutor General, was a turning point in the battle against impunity as concerns the targeted assassination of journalists in Russia. One very simple but highly effective measure, then proposed by Alexei Simonov and others, was to move the investigation out of Kalmykia not to a national but largely symbolic level but into the hands of a neighbouring Region's investigative department (in this case, I believe, the police and prosecutor's office of the Rostov Region). 

So in re-registering - will they be Novy Golos, I wonder? - Golos is using a time-tested response to one of the many quasi-legal ways of undermining the independence of media and, in their case, NGOs.