Grigory Pasko: A Complicated Award for a Russian Journalist

manana112210.jpgOn Nov. 17, the Russian journalist and television producer Manana Aslamazyan was awarded the TEFI Prize «For personal contribution to the development of Russian television». The ceremony took place in Moscow on the exhibition grounds of the the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VVC) during the intermission period (!) of another event dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the Russian national academy of television. Actually, the award ceremony was supposed to have taken place back in September in Saint Petersburg. But then during the time of the TEFI-2010 presentation ceremony the state figure (thus in Wikipedia – G.P.), president of the Academy of Russian television . advisor to the president (I don’t remember – in what area), former ministry of culture Mikhail Shvydkoy got cold feet about naming Aslamazyan’s surname from the stage.

And here now that same Shvydkoy, making a show of urbanity before Manana, presented her a statuette and said a bunch of boilerplate phrases about how Manana – is a wonderful person and in general – the founder of the regional telejournalistics of Russia.I was at this event – it was disgusting to look at Shvydkoy. Manana didn’t say a word about Shvydkoy’s position and about how many members of the academy of television had been shy about voting for her: she had turned out to be above the cowardice of her former shop colleagues. And Manana clarified her position with her gratitude specifically to those who had voted for her. «I could not let them down», – said Manana.But why were Shvydkoy and Co so afraid of pronouncing Manana’s name out loud? Aslamazyan is a member of the teleacademy since the year 2001. She ran the autonomous non-commercial organization «Internews», the «Obrazovannye media» [Educated Media] foundation, however in the year 2007 she abandoned Russia, after they had accused her of smuggling foreign currency. Then the journalist had been detained upon returning from Paris to the Sheremetyevo airport. According to the data of the investigation, upon passing through the customs border she did not declare in the established order 9550 euros and more than 5000 rubles, that is more than a sum equivalent to the 10 000 dollars that is permitted to be brought in without a declaration.Later, employees of the law-enforcement organs conducted a removal of documents in the «Internews» organization, after which the organization ceased work. In relation to Aslamazyan was initiated a criminal case under the article about «contraband». The journalist end up having to complain to the Constitutional Court, which stood on her side. The criminal case was terminated and requalified to an article about an administrative violation — non-declaration of foreign currency. Manana Aslamazyan was forced to abandon Russia, while in September of the year 2008 her administrative case received closure: she was sentenced to a fine of 1000 rubles.As Manana’s lawyer Viktor Parshutkin recounted to me, the case wasn’t worth a hill of beans.Many journalists and experts called the case against Manana Aslamazyan political.Manana herself in one of the interviews explained that then, at the border, she had allowed a mistake, but what an inappropriate continuation she got — removal of servers in Internews, intimidation — this is of course, unconditionally connected with politics. «I deem, said she, – that this was the result of the fact that our non-commercial organization was being funded by sponsors inconvenient for the power, including foreign ones. Likewise this may have been connected with the fact that I always spoke out against the controlling of the mass information media from above, for their freedom».In so doing Aslamazyan says that she does not consider herself an opposition journalist. «I merely support liberal values and freedoms. And I was and remain in opposition to stupidity, whomever it comes from, including from the power», — she declared.And while we’re on the subject, Eduard Sagalayev, a member of that same academy of television, also made an appearance at the ceremony. He, in particular, said that at one of the recent meetings with Putin the question of the persecution of Aslamazyan was raised. And Putin, in the words of Sagalayev, said that as long as he’s in power («and this, – Sagalayev specified more precisely, – still another 14 years at minimum»), Manana need not fear returning to Russia….I also congratulated Manana. We agreed to get together and discuss various topics on Skype in a few days. From which I understood that Manana has no intention of tarrying for long in Putin’s Russia.Photo: Manana Aslamazyan, photo from