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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Stringers' Bemoan Lack of Rights

Russian journalists working for the bureaus of Western news media outlets in Moscow often do the most dangerous work but face discrimination and a lack of legal protection, the Russian Journalists Union said Thursday.

Pavel Gutiontov, an organizer for the union, told a press conference his union will lodge a complaint with the International Federation of Journalists about the conditions faced by the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Russian journalists who are currently working as "stringers," casual employees for Western news organizations.

Oleg Panfilov, a journalists' rights activist with the Glasnost Defense Foundation, said that even though they work as efficiently as their Western colleagues and are often the first to be assigned to hot spots like Chechnya or Tajikistan, local stringers usually have no written contracts with their employers, earn less and have no life insurance or social benefits.

"The economic position of Russian journalists is such that they are willing to earn several times more than what Russian media pays, even though they know if they are wounded or killed, their foreign employers bear no responsibility for them," Panfilov said.

The Russian Journalists Union publicized the case of two Russian reporters, Vladimir Korsunsky and Yelena Tregubova, who said they had unwritten retainer agreements with Deutsche Welle, Germany's international state-sponsored broadcaster, but lost their jobs when they complained about their lack of rights.

Korsunsky said that during eight years of work for Deutsche Welle he paid German taxes and German trade union fees, but the IG Medien trade union refused to defend him in his dispute on the grounds that he was not a German national.

Miudrag Soric, head of the Russian service of Deutsche Welle, said in a telephone interview from Cologne that Korsunsky and Tregubova were fired because their work was not "good enough."

He said Deutsche Welle currently has 160 local stringers working throughout Russia and only one staff correspondent, who is a German national.

Two Deutsche Welle stringers are currently being held prisoner in Grozny.

Most Western news organizations hire local journalists and support staff in Russia, who often work without written agreements.

Employers are unwilling to pay social security taxes, while Russian employees are unwilling to have their earnings officially declared and subject to income tax.

Major Western news agencies that use local stringers refused to comment on their employment policies as far as free-lancers are concerned, only saying they abided by the law of the country they are in.

"We have an outstanding record of looking after the journalists who are contributing to us," said Richard Wallis, head of the editorial department of Reuters Moscow.

A Western television producer, who asked not to be identified, said, however, that stringers were treated badly all over the world, not just in Russia.