CIVIC JOURNALISTS ON GUARD OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIAN PENAL SYSTEM

Duration: August 2013 – October 2014 || Donor: MATRA || Budget: 2,036,000 rubles  

GOAL

To increase awareness of the right to health as a fundamental human right, also for minorities detained within the Russian penal system, among civic journalists and to provide them with the practical tools and strengthen their skills in promoting human rights of most affected populations to broader community and policy makers in Russia.

The project resulted in forming a group of local bloggers and civic journalists who are both better equipped to provide ethical coverage of important social issues and reach a broader audience through the use of new and social media.

LONG-TERM GOAL

To advance human rights, in particular the right to health, in the Russian Federation and improve overall situation of prisoners, especially most affected sub-groups of inmate such as people who inject drugs and people living with HIV (PLHIV) detained in penal system in Russia by strengthening public response to the issue.

On sixth of October, 2014 in the frame of this project AFEW in Russia held a round table titled “Health and Human Rights” for representatives of civil society, decision-makers and media.

The purpose of the round table was to discuss the issues of preservation of human rights of prisoners while serving in correctional facilities in Russia, as well as to consider the opportunities for civic journalists to contribute to the improvement of the situation for prisoners.

During the round table participants were presented with the data of prevalence of socially significant diseases in correctional facilities in Russia, especially among the most vulnerable groups, such as women and their children; people who have a history of drug use; people living with HIV.

In addition, participants also discussed the issues of strengthening public response to healthcare problems in Russian prisons to ensure the protection of human rights, in particular, the right to health, using ethically correct journalistic materials. Journalists, bloggers and representatives of non-governmental organisations had the opportunity to present their promising projects aimed at protecting the health and human rights of prisoners.

Conclusions and recommendations of round table participants

  • It is necessary to ensure that the institutions of Penal service of Russia are more open and available for public scrutiny and control since a closed nature of the penal system leads to distortion of information, guessing and “myth-making”;
  • The role of civic journalists in the protection of the rights of convicts is extremely high. There are numerous examples where only journalists’ intervention helped protect human rights;
    In today’s world, everyone who publishes information on the Internet is a media on his own. Therefore, the discussion of ethics and morality of published materials should not be limited to educational institutions for journalists. The platform for such discussions should be the whole of society.

In the framework of the project a contest for journalists and bloggers titled “Health and human rights in prisons: How to report on it?” was held between September and October 2014. Ten participants representing various regions of Russia took part in the contest. Prior to the contest participants took part in a training on the issues of ethics and correct coverage of healthcare concerns.

The contest revealed three winners; all of them received monetary remuneration. The last winner has produced a film.