Greetings! On November 10, the 7x7 — Horizontal Russia Online Newspaper’s team asked the Heinrich Böll Foundation for assistance in gathering an expert council to evaluate the accusations against the media outlet’s director Pavel Andreev of unethical behavior towards his acquaintance Sofya Orlova (the young woman allowed to reveal her identity). Ernest Mezak, a lawyer for the Public Verdict Foundation, publicly brought these accusations on November 8. Today we are reporting on the results of the experts' work and publishing the record of the expert group's meeting.
Pavel Andreev took a leave upon his own initiative on the next day after being accused. Our producer Sofia Krapotkina performed his duties during the past week. She was the moderator of the group's meeting, which was held online on Saturday, November 14.
The group included (with a deciding vote):
- Alexander Shmanay, psychologist;
- Tatyana Glushkova, lawyer;
- Yulia Ostrovskaya, lawyer.
In addition to them, the following people participated in the group’s work in an advisory capacity:
- Anna Rivina, lawyer, head of the Nasiliu.net (‘Say No to Violence’) Center that was contacted by Sofya Orlova;
- Marina Agaltsova, lawyer, counsel of Pavel Andreev.
Lawyer Maria Eismont took part in the commission at first, but then asked to be excused from participating in the group due to being busy.
In a public statement that 7x7’s team published on November 10 we said that we did not consider what happened to be the issue of harassment in the editorial team of 7x7, because Sofya Orlova had never been an employee, job applicant, or volunteer of the online newspaper, had never had any financial commitments with the editorial team, had never been Pavel Andreev's colleague or subordinate. The expert group noted that the team of the online newspaper had not had any opportunity to help the situation under review, since the story had been a private life’s episode and had nothing to do with the media outlet’s work. Since the experts were contacted by the editorial office where Pavel works, they suggested considering the situation in terms of workplace relations. The coordinated decision was that there was no harassment in the workplace. The expert group left it up to the editorial board whether to let Pavel Andreev could return to his duties as the media outlet’s CEO. On Monday, November 16, he resumed working.
Experts did not reach a verdict on whether the episode described in the accusation could be considered to be harassment and pointed out that there was no universal definition of harassment. They gave their personal judgements in the commentary to the protocol.
Lawyer Marina Agaltsova noted that Pavel's actions did not fall under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation or the Administrative Code: "Our legislation does not contain a definition of harassment. <...> If we analyze the situation, in view of reason, Pavel could not expect that his actions would lead to resentment, humiliation, or intimidation of Sofya. Moreover, he did not mean to violate human dignity of Sofya with his actions." Psychologist Alexander Shmanay pointed out that "the degree of forcefulness chosen by him towards Sofya seemed appropriate to him. But <...> on that day, Pavel might not have realized the way he was acting and the actual impact of his behavior."
Experts suggested that 7x7 remind employees about internal conflict management mechanisms that had already been created and think about the possibility of implementing a harassment policy that would keep the rules of behavior and personal boundaries of responsibility on paper. There is a functioning mediation board in 7x7, which is meant to handle any conflicts between the employees at their request. It includes full-time and freelance employees of the media outlet and external experts.
We find it important to cite the recommendations of lawyer Yulia Ostrovskaya that can be used by any other organizations that have not adopted a policy or conducted training on discrimination and harassment.
- The organization might conduct a survey/questionnaire of employees and volunteers to assess the risk factors that increase the probability of abuse and harassment in the organization's area of activities and to eliminate factors that could further such practices, if necessary. The survey can be conducted anonymously or involving an interviewer who is not a person holding a senior position in the organization.
- The organization can conduct awareness-raising activities in a form that is possible (for example, a lecture/training with relevant NPOs) for employees and volunteers about discrimination, gender-based violence, harassment, and their consequences.
- The organization might develop and adopt policies aimed at preventing violence, harassment, workplace harassment, including the proclamation of zero tolerance on violence, harassment, and workplace harassment; measures to protect victims and witnesses from victimization and pressure; and information about the procedures of filing complaint and investigation.
- If a policy is adopted, the organization might ensure that all employees are informed of the policy text timely and have free access to it.
- When organizing and conducting public events, the organization might use awareness-raising materials that demonstrate the unacceptability of violence and harassment, particularly gender-based violence and harassment.
- The organization might ensure that employees participate in decision-making on the implementation of all of these recommendations.
Thank you for worrying about us!