A Mess of Major Repairs

In 2012, the Russian regional funds were created to raise funds for the repairs of multi-apartment buildings. “No extra money is required,” was the promise to the deputies about the implementation of changes in the legislation.

A team of investigative journalists from Veliky Novgorod has studied the numerous violations done by the Fund for Major Renovation in the Northwest region of Russia. In particular, a company close to the former management of the fund received contracts for millions of rubles.
The three reporters, Elena Vaganova, Valentina Stepanova, Ekaterina Pereplavchenko believe that the facts they published in the investigation “Capital mess” should attract the attention of law enforcement agencies.

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A Company Full of Empty Promises

The building site in Petrozavodsk, where the company Okhta has started construction of blocks of flats is polluted. That’s a fact according to independent experts.

Okthas manager saw it the same way a few years ago and promised to removed the dirty soil. Since then no trucks have been driving polluted material off the site. Instead there is a discussion between authorities, which have approved some of the building plans, about the correct way of taking samples, and the first buildings are now standing, where once the workers of Onega Tractor Plant built heavy machinery. The reporter Julia Kucherenko tells a story of broken promises.

The investigation was first published in the newssite 7×7 in Petrozavodsk on November 16, 2017.

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The Rise and Fall of the Shuya Salmon

The Shuya stock of Onega salmon used to be on Russias ‘red list’ and thus protected. But the famous fish was removed from the list 2004, and at first it was a success. In 2010, the total catch was – official figures – 100 tons. But since then it turned into a bad story.

There is almost no wild Shuya salmon left, and local authorities have not been able to reintroduce protection. Evgeniy Belyanchikov tells the story of the rise and fall of the Shuya stock of Onega salmon. His articles was published in Gubernija Daily as a three-part series on November 8, 9 and 10 2017.

Read the Russian originals – Part 1Part 2Part 3

Read the English abstract

Vodka at Every Corner

Russian authorities claim to fight alcoholism, but in two Northern cities, Arkhangelsk with 360.000 inhabitants and Severodvinsk with 183.000, it’s easier than ever to get hold of alcohol – vodka, whisky and moonshine.

In Arkhangelsk the staff of Children’s Library No. 3 located in a residential building complained when a new bar ‘Pivnie Traditsii’ (Beer Traditions) opened a few meters away. In vain.

In his investigation, published on News 29 on November 10, 2017, the reporter Sergei Marinin outlines the drinking problems of present-day Russia.

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“Editorial Board” Prize to SCOOP Coordinator

Anna Yarovaya, journalist at 7×7 in Petrozavodsk and SCOOP coordinator, has been awarded the prize “Editorial Board” for her longread “Rewriting Sandarmorkh”.

Sandarmorkh is a name that evokes associations with executions, suffering, and history. In 1937-38 it was the site of mass executions of political prisoners, and over 7,000 were murdered there and buried in 236 mass graves.

But in recent years local historians have claimed, that Sandarmorkh is also the resting place for Russian prisoners of war, killed by Finns during World War 2. This was supposedly based on declassified FSB papers, but Anna Yarovaya’s investigation showed that the claims could not be substantiated in the papers. Who is trying to rewrite the history of executions and burials in Karelia – and why?

Read Anna Yarovaya’s story in English

And in Russian here

 

Have an Idea for an Investigation? Time to Apply for a Grant!

Fredrik Laurin, reporter at Swedish TV program Uppdrag Granskning and ICIJ member, teaches at SCOOP masterclass in Russia.

To all journalists in the North-West region of Russia interested in investigative reporting!

We – the International Media Support, IMS, in Copenhagen, the Associations of investigative journalism in Denmark and Sweden, FUJ and FGJ, in cooperation with the Regional Press Institute, RPI, in Saint Petersburg, Russia and Fojo Media Institute, Sweden – are happy to invite you to apply for support to an investigative journalism report you would like to conduct in your region. The investigation should be useful to your community and interesting to your audience. The work should be intended to be published in a mass media you regularly work for, such as print media, radio, television or web based media.

We offer you assistance to plan your investigation, and to participate in a training program held by Fojo Media Institute, with Russian-speaking trainers. During the work you can get support from our experienced trainers in Russia. You can also apply for financial support for various costs during the work, such as travel or external analysis, legal screening of the text and a small fee.

SCOOP Russia is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) This is the 8th year SCOOP Russia is running and SIDA is supporting the program till 2019.

The supported projects will also be published on the SCOOP Russia website www.i-scoop.org. On the website you can see examples of previous investigations in Russian language as well as in English. If you have questions, you can find contact details on the web page.

Deadline for applications is February 15th. The application form shall be properly filled and sent by e-mail to info@scooprussia.org. SCOOP Russia is ready to support 14 applications from new journalists. In addition a number of reporters who have already received SCOOP training, can get support for a new investigation. It is also possible to apply for a cross border investigation in cooperation with a colleague from another country. Our selection period ends March 1st. The training period is planned for 16 – 21 April 2018.

Only journalists from the Northwest region of Russia can get support and participate in the training.

We are ready to welcome your application!

The staff of SCOOP Russia

Call for Applications Upcoming

Journalists in Northwest Russia with an interest in investigative journalism: News is on its way about training and grants for SCOOP Russia in 2018!

Behind the SCOOP grants are the International Media Support Organization (IMS) in Copenhagen, the Association of Investigative Journalists of Denmark (FUJ) and Sweden (FGJ), the Regional Press Institute (RPI, Petersburg), Russia, and the Media Institute FOJO (Kalmar). SCOOP Russia will announce the dates and eligibility rules of new applications for participation in the program after the end of the New Year holidays.

The project is funded by Sida, the Agency for International Development Cooperation (Sweden).

Preliminary training is conducted in Russian at the Media Institute FOJO (Kalmar, Sweden).

We will inform you about the beginning of the new project after the New Year holidays. Please, use the vacation to tconsider which journalistic investigations might be useful to citizens and interesting for your audience, and be ready to file your thoughts in the form of an application.

Follow the announcements on the website of SCOOP Russia and on Facebook.

ECPMF Chairman Challenges Council of Europe on Azerbaijan

Europe’s elected representatives should insist on improvements on human rights and freedom in Azerbaijan before ANY further cooperation or deals, writes ECPMF chairman – and SCOOP founder and coordinator – Henrik Kaufholz in an open letter to politicians in Council of Europe countries.

Azeri journalists are persecuted, and at the same time politicians and other celebrities in Europe receives money from Azerbaijan’s government. The politicians are in a position to demand change, writes mr. Kaufholz.

SCOOP is a founding member of the ECPMF (European Center for Press and Media Freedom).

The full text of the letter:

An open letter from Henrik Kaufholz, ECPMF Chairman, to all parliamentarians in the Council of Europe

Leipzig, September 22, 2017

Dear Member of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Azerbaijan’s human rights record is shameful. Europe’s elected representatives should insist on improvements before ANY further co-operation is proposed or deals are signed with Azerbaijan – by individuals, state-backed companies, nations or European institutions.

Investigative reporters working on the ’Laundromat’ money-laundering scandal have already revealed that at least two elected European politicans were involved in trying to whitewash that shameful record.

At the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom we are working hard to defend the rights of Azerbaijani journalists who – even in exile – are persecuted by Aliyev’s agents.

For example, Afgan Mukhtarli and his family fled to Georgia after his reports alleging government corruption were published, to escape the backlash. Then on May 29, 2017 he was forcibly abducted, beaten and hooded and driven to Baku, where he has been in pre-trial detention for almost four months now. This is extraordinary rendition. Mukhtarli’s wife and young daughter, back in Tblisi, are being followed by persons unknown and fear a similar fate.

They are just two of a long list of critical investigative journalists and human rights defenders who face imprisonment, exile and persecution. Your colleagues at the European Parliament have called on the Azerbaijani government to honour the commitments they have made for closer ties with Europe. (The case of Afgan Mukhtarli and situation of media)

We all know of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), we all know of the importance of energy security for Europe. But human rights weigh more heavily. As Chairman of the Executive Board of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, an independent co-operative largely financed by the European Commission, I urge you to protest in the strongest possible terms about the many human rights abuses committed in Azerbaijan. We should also oppose the candidacy of Polad Bülbüloğlu for Director-General of UNESCO and agitate to remove the First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyev from her post as UN Goodwill Ambassador.

The ECPMF and its partners across Europe will be happy to provide you with more case studies and examples of Azerbaijan’s shortcomings in the field of press and media freedom and human rights.
You have the power to question, to challenge and to initiate talks that could trigger change. We need to free the jailed journalists, remove the threat from dissidents who live in fear and help create an Azerbaijan that earns the respect of Europe’s citizens.

Yours sincerely,

Henrik Kaufholz
Chairman of the Executive Board, European Centre for Press and Media

Repairs Start in Syktyvkar After Pressure

The citizens of Syktyvkar can now walk a little more safely in the streets. After the SCOOP-supported investigation of the newssite 7X7 of the deplorable state of the sidewalks, the city council has now started the repair and were recently able to inspect to first streets.

Mayor of Syktyvtar Valery Koshkov inspects the new sidewalks after much needed repairs.

The 7X7 reporter Maksim Polyakov documented in the autumn of 2016 how 14,450 stones on the pavements of central streets were missing or damaged. The problems started only one year after new paving was laid, mainly in 2011 and 2012.

Since the investigation was published, Polyakov has asked the city authorities several times why nothing had been done to remedy the situation. But this summer, the work began, and yesterday, August 16, the mayor could take officials and press for a walk down the first repaired pavements, now covered with asphalt. According to the press release, 14,9 million rubles had been spent to repair the pavements, including traffic signals and special tiles to lead the blind.

A typical view in Syktyvkar – the pavements began deteriorating soon after they were finished.

Reporter Maksim Polyakov says:

“The last three mayors, I’m sure, did not think about the city. Two of them were convicted in court for fraud. For 10 years, nobody took care of the city. But now the situation has changed. Now if journalists write an investigation and ask questions, the mayor and his colleagues do something. Officials have just started repairing sidewalks and paving stones. But they told reporters that they have a repair plan and that they found the money. The only thing I can do is keep asking them about it.”

Read the article in 7X7 (in Russian)

A Window into Europe

During the European refugee crisis asylum seekers some tried to sneak from Russia into Finland.

The reporter Sergey Khoroshavin from Argumenty I  Fakty analyzed all documents, did a lot of interviews  and even tried to follow one of the routes.  It turned out that the frontier of 798 kilometers is not only heavily guarded but also that the Russian security zone has been changed benefitting  a businessman from St. Petersburg – Igor Leytis.

The report was published in Argumenty i Fakty on 29.09.2016.

Read the Russian original

Read the English translation