MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti)
Duma to Approve Media-Unfriendly Amendments to Civil Code
In late January, the State Duma Committee on Legislation approved anti-media amendments to the new wording of the Civil Code proposed by Dmitry Medvedev before he stepped down as president. The amendments to articles 150-152 (protection of honor, dignity and business reputation) equate unreliable information with defamatory information, ban the dissemination of any information, private or otherwise, about a person without their consent, and require the existence of public interest to be proven as a legal justification for reporting information.
The amendments evoked strong dissatisfaction in the media community as early as at the drafting stage last summer, and a working group was set up to look for solutions. The main grievances were formulated by the Russian Association of Electronic Communications (RAEC), which planned to present them to the State Duma Committee on Information Policy yesterday. According to the RAEC, the bill could generate numerous problems for the media, including the need to prove in court that there really is public interest involved with regard to any publication.
As a compromise, the working group suggests a clause banning the collection and storing of private information without a person’s consent except in cases involving state or public interests or if a person provided the data of their own free will. The requirement that journalists disclose their sources should only be enforced if a plaintiff proves in court that a report was false and caused damage to their reputation. According to Pavel Gusev, editor-in-chief of Moskovsky Komsomolets, disclosure of sources could kill the media, while the legal costs will ruin them financially.
The Duma information policy committee met yesterday to discuss the amendments for the second reading of the bill, but the debate did not take place because three celebrities invited to take part – Stas Mikhailov, Grigory Leps and Valery Meladze – put up a show in defense of the proposed legislation which, they alleged, would protect them against media intrusion.
The media have made some real headway in attempting to block the amendments. Though approved, they may yet come under discussion at the committee level. That is why yesterday’s show was organized. Masterminded by Committee Chairman Alexei Mitrofanov, a lobbyist for the amendments, it was meant to create a semblance of a debate. For now, the legislature seems determined to pass the bill with the approved amendments.
Putin’s Trainer Fights to Make Sambo an Olympic Sport
Vladimir Putin’s trainer plans to submit a bid to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne to add Sambo (a Russian martial art) to the Olympic program, Vasily Shestakov, president of the International Sambo Federation, told Izvestia. He said they hope the IOC will consider giving temporary recognition to this martial art.
“Putin wants to make Sambo an Olympic event, and we’ll spare no pains to make it a reality,” Shestakov said. “Sambo will celebrate a 75th anniversary this year, and it is our national sport. Teams from 55 countries attended the latest world championship. So why is Sambo not yet on the Olympic program?” he wonders.
Putin promised to promote Sambo as an Olympic event as early as 2010 when he met with athletes as the prime minister. He even asked Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko to lobby for the issue.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that including Sambo among the Olympic sports is up to the IOC. The procedure is a protracted one, he said. An executive board recommendation is needed and then a committee vote. It is the reverse of removing wrestling from the Olympic program, he added. This week the IOC executive board recommended excluding freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling from the 2020 summer Olympic Games.
Sambo was officially recognized as an international sport in 1966, but failed to gain Olympic status. LDPR State Duma deputy Dmitry Nosov, an Olympic bronze medalist, said that in 1980 the Federation missed a chance to include Sambo in the Olympic program.
“This is the dream of all Sambo wrestlers in Russia and the world,” he said. “In 1980 we missed the opportunity when ice hockey rather than Sambo was chosen because of a Brezhnev decision. The sportsmen regret it, and that is why Sambo athletes dislike Brezhnev,” Nosov said.
Andrei Ryabinsky, vice-president of the Professional Boxing Federation, believes the IOC should give it a chance.
“That would be only right,” he said. “Sambo is an original sport and it differs from judo and wrestling.”
Vitaly Minakov, four time world Sambo champion, added that Sambo has gained recognition around the world thanks to Putin’s interest.
“If it is included in the Olympics, it would be good for Russia. It would increase the country’s prestige and guarantee the lion’s share of medals for it. Russia could win three or four more gold medals,” Minakov said.
Alexei Maly, president of the Combat Sambo Federation, argues, however, the usual kind of Sambo would be dull and boring for Olympic spectators.
“Plain Sambo wrestling is like judo, but combat Sambo should be included in the Olympics. It’s been popular recently and its techniques were perfected in Soviet times. The duel that is known as combat Sambo is the most dynamic contest ever in sports,” Maly said.
The IOC decision whether to include Sambo in the Olympic program is expected in May.
Russian Finance Minister Sets Priorities for G20 Meeting
Finance Minister Anton Siluanov talked about some of the financial agenda issues ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' Meeting, focusing in particular on evaluating risks for central depositories as part of the reform of the over-the-counter derivatives market.
The top financial officials of the 20 major economies will also discuss ways to improve the regulation of rating agencies and curb currency wars like their G7 counterparts did.
On Friday, President Vladimir Putin will meet with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in the opening ceremony for Russia’s G20 presidency.
Siluanov said this meeting’s agenda includes three major items related to financial stability. Russia hopes to reach an agreement on stress-testing central counterparties, including the Russian Central Securities Depository opened in January 2013. The move is aimed at guaranteeing the sustainability of the central clearing houses amid growing risks in transactions with derivatives.
The derivatives market reform was initiated in 2009, when the G20 leaders agreed that all standardized OTC derivative contracts should be cleared through central counterparties and all derivative contracts should be reported to central data centers. The agreement is due to be finalized this year. However, the increased volume of transactions could put an extra burden on the central counterparties, Siluaniov said, adding that some difficulties exist with the required reporting to central data centers.
He believes the proposed stress tests should minimize the risks of this reform as well as the possibility of meltdown triggered by external shocks. The tests could be administered by the Financial Stability Bureau or the Basel Committee. “The G20 could then make a decision based on this analysis,” Siluanov said. For example, the countries may decide the central depositories need to be recapitalized.
He also called for the introduction of joint supervision of the international clearing systems, adding that some national legislation still need to allow such supervision.
G20 financial officials will certainly discuss exchange rate regulation, a debate refueled by a 15 percent devaluation of the Japanese yen against the dollar and the euro over the last six weeks. Addressing the attempt by Japan's new government to reflate its economy, Siluanov said: “There should be competition between economies, not currencies.” Although this issue was not on the initial agenda, the G20 finance ministers are likely to back the G7 call in its final communique on Saturday that fiscal and monetary policies would not be directed at devaluing currencies.
Another issue on today’s agenda is the regulation of rating agencies. The G20 proposed retro-analysis of their reliability in addition to the preliminary evaluation of their methodologies. A special FSB committee is to be entrusted with the analysis and with the appraisal of the top global rating agencies.
Siluanov said the need for intervention stems from problems caused by unreliable economic benchmarks. “I am not only referring to LIBOR, EURIBOR, or Dow Jones, but also to dozens of important local indices that define the mood of the markets,” he said.
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