Tatyana Margolina: Perm region without the Pilorama Civic Forum is no longer Perm region

posted 10 Jul 2013, 09:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Jul 2013, 09:03 ]
9 July 2013 


Source: HRO.org (info)
Human rights ombudsman in Perm region,Tatyana Margolina: “The uniqueness of this Forum lies not in the fact that someone or other is able to criticize the authorities, but in the ability for people of different viewpoints to conduct debate and thereby to consciously assume a joint responsibility for the future of our country.”
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“I believe the decision of the Board of Trustees and the Public Council not to stage the Pilorama Civic Forum-2013 was forced upon them.

In accordance with the rules governing the organization of the Pilorama Civic Forum, the programme of the Forum is drawn up by the event’s Public Council and the Board of Trustees, and organizational issues are resolved by the organizing committee at the regional level. The Forum’s programme is prepared (as everyone knows, on the basis of proposals by participants in accordance with the pre-announced theme of the Forum), and presented at a press conference in June.

However, despite repeated appeals and requests, the organizing committee for the Civic Forum in the region was not created, no sessions were held, and the Forum’s programme was not publicly discussed.

In a so-called ‘working order’ attempts were made to introduce censor the Forum, in a manner unprecedented in our region (what was at issue was the list of activities to include in the programme, which should be excluded, and who should be invited as speakers, moderators, music groups, and which films should be screened).

When the regional authorities failed to obtain the agreement of the Forum organizers, they took the "traditional path," reducing funding to the extent that organizing the event became impossible.

It is important to note that the decision of the Board of Trustees and the Forum Public Council was taken deliberately.

It is impossible in Perm region to permit the authorities to treat civic initiatives in an unconstitutional manner, and to grossly interfere in the activities of civil society organizations.

"We are paying for this so we have the right to check up on what’s going on and take determining decisions!" "Why should public funds (meaning, the money of the authorities) be used to fund criticism of the government, and for them to say whatever they want?" – this is what our modern day bureaucrats have been saying, who have no idea about the foundations of the constitutional system of our country.

The impression is that they are still living under the Soviet Constitution, fundamentally different from the Russian Constitution, in terms of the rights of the individual in the country.

Today, the Constitution recognizes the individual, his or her rights and freedoms, as most important, and not the government. Human freedom and civil society organizations are the absolute priority in the country! To enable the realization of these rights, the government must create the right conditions.

The executive authorities have no right to arbitrarily reduce expenditures that have already been planned for an event of such social significance (I remind you that in the Legislative Assembly there have been two attempts by individual deputies to stop, or at least reduce, funding for the Perm-36 museum and the Pilorama Forum, and twice deputies of the regional parliament have refused to support these proposals).

In this regard, I believe the proposal by the Council not to compromise is fundamentally correct (human rights and freedoms cannot be parceled out in bits and pieces).

I also consider that it should be possible to hold some of the events, including international events, that were going to be held at the Pilorama Forum at the Perm-36 museum, and this can be done.

As Human Rights Ombudsman, I have prepared a formal request to regional governor Viktor Basargin concerning the arbitrary decision of government bodies to cut the funding of the international Pilorama Civic Forum, and the excessive red tape in the preparations for the Forum insisted on by the governor’s regional administration.

Finally, the arguments that such behaviour, and the position adopted by the regional administration, is not their own initiative, but comes from somewhere higher up, is being heard ever louder. If this is really the case, I think it necessary to formally address the administration of the President of Russia with a request to clarify its position on the real and imaginary risks involved in holding regionally-based civil society debates about the past, the present and the future of our country.

For my part, I appeal to the administration of the governor of the region to clarify one issue: Do the officials of the administration understand that the Pilorama Civic Forum is the region’s ‘visiting card’? And that it is not some kind of formalized audit with face-control?

The Pilorama Civic Forum is a sign of the openness of the region, its ability to listen and to hear different points of view about the current situation, to work together (and I emphasize together - civil society in its various manifestations, government, and business) to find solutions to the issues we face.

The uniqueness of this Forum lies not in the fact that someone or other is able to criticize the authorities, but in the ability for people of different viewpoints to conduct debate and thereby to consciously assume a joint responsibility for the future of our country.”

Tatyana Margolina

Human rights ombudsman, Perm region

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