27 Июня 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 620

24 June 2013



Regional Health Department in Omsk Region classifies information about Omsky Vestnik editor’s death

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional Health Department, which assured Omsk journalists it would carry out an all-round investigation of the early death of their colleague Vladimir Igolkin, has suddenly backed out and decided to classify all information about the case.

The circumstances of the Omsky Vestnik editor’s death were reported in digest 617. Actually, it so happened that Igolkin died of a hammertoe, not of the health disorders mentioned in his death certificate (“an acute heart failure resulting from a coronary artery disease and post-infarction cardiosclerosis”), because it was that problem that caused him to turn to the Medical Surgery Centre in the first place. According to the family and friends of the late 57-year-old journalist, he was “generally a healthy man who never complained of any heart disorders”.

He underwent surgery on 15 April and was discharged from hospital two weeks later – with a bleeding wound. On 1 May the sutures stopped holding, causing Igolkin to call the Surgery Centre asking what to do. They invited him to come after the end of May's holiday week. On 6 May, overcoming the pain, he did make it to the hospital on public transport in hopes of assistance, but was told to go back home. On the following day, he was finally admitted to the hospital, causing local medics to frown at their poorly-performing colleagues (“They are again shifting their rejects to us,” Igolkin later cited them as saying in his presence).

The second operation did not improve his condition, either. Puzzled by this new failure, the doctors then told him to find a way to independently arrange an ultrasonic blood-flow assessment at another clinic, because their own ultrasonic specialist was away on holiday.

In their appeal to the regional prosecutor and regional health minister, the journalists asked, among other things, why the ultrasonic examination had been prescribed to Igolkin only after two ineffective operations that had only worsened his condition. Does this mean the doctors performed the two surgeries blindly, intuitively, by guesswork?

He went on crutches to a private clinic – only to hear he should have made an appointment with the ultrasonic physician two weeks in advance. Meanwhile, in line with the regional administration’s Decision of 12 December 2012, “On the Regional Programme of State Guarantees of Free Medical Assistance to Citizens”, if an in-patient cannot be diagnosed locally, a hospital must provide transport and an accompanying medical worker to deliver such patient to another clinic. It was the irony of fate that Igolkin himself had signed for printing the Omsky Vestnik issue featuring that government decision.

On 15 May, when his friends had arranged for his transfer to the Regional Clinic, the editor was discharged from the Surgery Centre and sent home in a critical condition. On the following day he made it to the clinic all on his own again – to undergo a third surgery operation on 22 May and to die one day later.

In their appeal (signed by more than a hundred media workers), the journalists also wondered, “If the patient did have the heart problems mentioned in the medical conclusions, why not explain to him the risks associated with any kind of surgery prior to performing it?”

The appeal was handed to the Health Department on 29 May. The minister being away on holiday, the journalists were received by First Deputy Health Minister Oleg Popov, who said a commission had been set up to study Igolkin’s medical history in detail; should any violations be found, the ministry would make them public and give them an unbiased evaluation.

This was confirmed by Health Minister Andrei Storozhenko, who spoke on the telephone from the foreign country where he was staying on holiday.

“If we find out it’s our fault, the guilty persons will be held liable,” he said. “When the investigation is over, I’ll be ready to answer any questions you may have.”

With the minister’s consent, these words were published by the media along with the text of the journalists’ appeal.

But three weeks later, the situation changed drastically. A few days ago the Omsk branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union received a message from the regional Health Department that read as follows:

“Information regarding the provision of health services to Vladimir Igolkin cannot be made available to you in line with Article 13 of Federal Law No. 323-FZ of 21 November 2011, ‘On the Basics of Public Health Care in the Russian Federation’, which stipulates that information about the fact of a person’s turning for medical assistance, his condition and diagnosis, and other data obtained in the course of his examination and treatment, constitute medical secrets.” And that’s that.

It seems the commission has found out something very secret indeed, if a theme that the minister claimed ready to discuss in detail has suddenly been banned for discussion altogether. The way the authors of the journalists’ appeal look at it, the main point is who is at the head of the two medical institutions where Igolkin received treatment. It’s no one’s secret, though: the Surgery Centre is led by Vadim Berezhnoy, deputy leader of the regional branch of the United Russia Party and head of the regional public reception service of URP leader Dmitry Medvedev; and the Regional Clinic is led by Konstantin Polezhayev, son of Omsk ex-Governor Leonid Polezhayev.

The journalists have started an independent investigation in hopes to find the answer to the question of why a standard surgery operation that usually results in no serious complications at other clinics has ended lethally in the region’s two most renowned hospitals. The circumstances of Vladimir Igolkin’s death are being checked in parallel by the regional prosecutor’s office and investigative committee. Their findings have not been disclosed so far.

Khabarovsk bureaucrats invent new information filters

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A project aimed to restrict access to information and impose censorship on the media has been launched in the region of Khabarovsk.

“The Rules of Formation, Classification and Promotion of Information Flows within the Krabarovsk Region Government and Executive Bodies” is a four-page document detailing how information should pass on from a government official to the media and through what “filters” it should go before becoming known to the public. Presumably, the document should “minimise damage to the government’s public image, should any ‘negative’ news events occur.”

“The unconditionally and solely possible way to present news events to the media is in accordance with these Rules, except in emergency cases,” when “coordination with the Governor of the Khabarovsk Region shall be mandatory,” the document says.

As clarified in the General Provisions, the Rules have been developed “for purposes of determining individual officials’ range of responsibility and reaction time from the stage at which a news event occurs to the stage when it receives media coverage”. In the process, government officials will bear responsibility “not only for their actions but also for inaction, as well as for their inappropriate or belated actions”.

It follows that from now on, any information from ministries and other government agencies is to be divided into three flows: “For coverage in the media”, “For interested parties’ information” and – as is written in black and white in the Rules – “For restricting access thereto”. This would “strengthen our positions in situations of news-related confrontation”, with nothing said, though, about who is going to confront whom.

In line with the Rules, “each executive body, within five days of the date of this document’s approval, shall appoint an official-in-charge, ranking not lower than a deputy head”, to “gather information about news events accompanying the performance of executive bodies and their subdivisions” and “send formal reports to the analyst”. The latter must work in contact with the information-analysis units of the governor’s apparatus and the regional administration. The analyst’s range of duties is wider and includes running a database of news events; updating the existing list of the persons charged with submitting formal reports; editing the news events waiting to be made public; and dividing the “active-line” news events into the three information flows mentioned above.

The regional Ministry of Information Technology and Communications must provide “each official-in-charge with a coded communication channel with a firewall-protected e-mail address (with guaranteed message delivery and automatic recording of the date and time at which a message was received, read or sent out), and must teach the information exchange participants how to use this technology”.

The question is what kind of information the media may expect to receive after this kind of “news settling and filtering”.

“If a news event is directed into the ‘For media coverage’ flow,” the Rules say, “it shall be subject to coordination with the regional administration deputy head in charge of domestic policy (Viktor Martsenko) or the person acting in his stead.” The deputy head must divide the news events into three flows again: “For coverage by online media”, “For coverage by conventional media” and “For coverage by all types of media”. This means that from now on, information will not only be edited and filtered but also “entrusted” only to those media that “deserve” to cover it.

Further, coordinated lists of news events will be forwarded to the Khabarovsk Governor and Administration’s Central Information Policy and Public Communications Department, which will prepare news handouts. The latter will be made available either to media directly or to the Information Technology and Communications Ministry for distribution via online media.

For those who have not yet been bored to death reading citations from this brilliant sample of Khabarovsk red tape, we may add that all news events also will be categorised in terms of their urgency. Category 1: a “positive” event due to occur not earlier than in 3 days. Category 2: a “positive” event due to occur in less than 3 days. Category 3: a “problem” event due to occur not earlier than in 3 days. And Category 4: a “problem” event that has already taken place.

The project’s author is Khabarovsk Government Deputy Chairman Arkady Mkrtychev. After pilot-testing on 3-28 June, his brainchild is to be put into regular operation as of the second half of the year.

Yet the new system has already failed once during the testing period: an “unfiltered” news event, skirting the coded communication channels and censors at all levels, without an assigned category of urgency, leaked to the independent media and received extensive coverage. One may only wonder if Viktor Martsenko, the regional government’s deputy head in charge of domestic policy, is ever to be held liable for that…

For reference:

Gen. (ret.) Arkady Mkrtychev is the Khabarovsk governor’s chief of staff, who has worked in the regional government since 2010. Before that, he was the Far Eastern Military District’s deputy commander in charge of logistics.

Monopolistic media holding ANO Guberniya to be liquidated in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The regional prosecutor’s office has asked the Central district court in Chelyabinsk to liquidate the “private-state” media partnership ANO Guberniya. Attached to the legal claim are six volumes of different sub-laws, resolutions and decisions passed by the local authorities that the prosecutors have analysed in-depth.

“In the huge stack of documents we have reviewed, we’ve found numerous gross violations of federal legislation, particularly Article 45 of the Code of Civil Procedure,” Kopeisk Municipal District Deputy Prosecutor Denis Polezhayev commented. “We don’t know what kind of decision the court will pass based on its moral certainty, but we’re ready to go as far as it takes to have our legal claim satisfied in full.”

The prosecutorial motion definitely aims to strengthen law observance in the media sphere. It was preceded by an appeal signed by the editors of 24 district and municipal newspapers who protested against new rules of subsidy distribution that made budgetary support available only to media outlets meeting a set of five (sic!) eligibility criteria – that is, to Guberniya alone as a monopolistic media holding co-owned by the regional administration and the Filichkin family of media tycoons, who imposed censorship and controlled virtually all the regional media by coercing district newspapers into distributing Gubernia’s propagandistic supplement at their own expense.

As the district editors suspected, the 35 million roubles allocated in media subsidies this year was to go to Guberniya, which would be free to use that money at it saw fit. Fortunately, the editors sounded the alarm early enough to prevent the money’s misappropriation.



Newspaper Yel Birligi reporter attacked

Dauren Mustafin, a reporter for the republican newspaper Yel Birligi, has been attacked in Shymkent, according to the news agency Interfax-Kazakhstan.

After the Al-Farabi district court in Shymkent met to review a judicial conflict between an Ordabasy district council member and local villagers on 19 June, Mustafin approached the MP for an interview, but the parliamentarian and several other men nearly broke the journalist’s photo camera, seized the memory stick with video footage, and pushed the reporter into a vehicle by force.

“Along the way, they threatened and beat me on the face and shoulders, inflicting some bodily injuries,” Mustafin said. He managed to call the police on the phone from the lobby of the Altyn Orda Business Centre, where his assailants had brought him; that gave rise to their attempt at having his cell phone seized, too. Evidently unwilling to meet with police officers, the attackers quickly disappeared.

A forensic medical examination requested by the victim confirmed the fact of trivial bodily damage inflicted on him. Mustafin reported the attack to the Al-Farabi district police department, which ordered a probe into the circumstances.

[Adil Soz Foundation report, 21 June]



Journalists’ apartment house in Yekaterinburg preserved, but conflict over it persists

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Journalists from the Yekaterinburg-based newspaper Yest Rabota, who are opposed to having an apartment house built at their expense torn down, have succeeded in getting the relevant court decision arrested. Inspired by this interim victory, they are determined to defend their property to the end.

As we have reported, the journalists purchased a plot of land at 70, Khasanovskaya St. in Yekaterinburg two years ago; built an apartment house there; duly registered it, getting the official property ownership certificates; and got busy finishing their apartments’ interiors last year. But Judge Veronika Lazareva of the Leninsky district court declared their house “an unauthorised construction site” and ruled to have it pulled down. Since the owners refused to do this voluntarily, the court ordered that the building be demolished by force on June 22.

The journalists challenged that order by going on a collective hunger strike.

“On 3 June, a total of 18 persons, including 16 women, started fasting,” Andrei Vybornov, general director of the Vic-Media Holding (the publisher of the Yest Rabota newspaper), told the GDF. “They spent three days in the office taking no food and only drinking water. After that, we decided that the women should stop the strike; our lawyer Yaroslav Filatov and I kept fasting for four more days until 10 June.”

Asked by the journalists to consider their protest, Judge Lazareva told them the court would certainly do that – but not earlier than 1 July, by which date the house would have been pulled down already. On 19 June, however, the Sverdlovsk Region Court Presidium ruled to satisfy their legal claim for the tear-down decision to be arrested.

Several multi-storey buildings erected on land plots earmarked for individual housing construction are known to have been pulled down in Yekaterinburg. In this case, too, the apartment house was built on land slated for private housing construction only: there is no central sewage system; the houses are too close to each other; and the existing power capacity is not enough for as many dwellers as that, city administration spokesman Denis Sukhorukov said.

The authorities have been hampering the fulfilment of existing agreements on having the apartment house connected to all the utilities, Vybornov said, adding, though, that the journalists are beginning “to see light at the end of the tunnel”: as early as 17 April, Yekaterinburg Chief Architect Mikhail Vyatkin, addressing a conference at the mayor’s office, pointed to the need to change the status of the residential quarter where the journalists’ house stands from an “individual” to a “multi-storey” housing construction area. The only hurdle is that “a very big construction company is seeking to lay its hands on contracts there,” he said. But the journalists are prepared to fight until a full victory…

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Yekaterinburg.



Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre holds summer webinars for journalists

The Media Rights Defence Centre (MRDC), jointly with the Media Law Bureau, is planning to hold a webinar about the handling of confidential information.

The webinar will take place on 27 June 2013 at 12:00-15:00 Moscow time. The trainer is Galina Arapova, a media law specialist and the MRDC’s senior legal expert.

The trainees will learn what restricted-access information is; what kinds of data are deemed confidential and how they are to be handled in line with effective legislation; what personal data are all about; what data constitute private information and what the restrictions are on its disclosure; who is affected by the secrecy of investigation and justice administration; what the difference is between official and commercial secrets; and what data are subject to classification as professional secrets.

PC monitors will feature the trainer making a presentation and providing explanations. You may type a question into the in-built chat box and see the trainer answer it orally. You will not even have to leave your workplace to participate in the webinar. The only things needed are a PC connected to the internet, some free time and a desire to get new practical knowledge or to brush up what you already know.

Details about participation in the webinar.

2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury of the 2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” invites journalists to submit their works for this year’s contest before November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2012 and October 15, 2013 in Russian print and online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

Further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.



Omiks Radio/TV Company in Kemerovo Region under pressure


Dear Boris:

Since we talked on the phone on Friday, the situation has grown still worse. It’s indeed outrageous that they’ve ejected us from a private building together with its owner and tenants, and cut off power supply to the transmitting centre. We have prepared appeals to different authorities and federal media, which we will circulate tomorrow morning. Please see the details below.

Best regards,

I. V. Lazarev, Omiks TV/Radio Company


At 8 p.m. on 21 June, power supply to the Omiks TV/Radio Company in the city of Belovo, Kemerovo Region, was cut off without notice – a practice prohibited under the law. Omiks is a communication system operator (Licenses Nos. 61558, 71588 and 91964), and as such, it belongs (in accordance with Government Decision No. 442 of 4 May 2012) within the special category of power consumers for whom power supply restrictions may result in negative economic, ecological or social consequences. A full blackout (power supply below the established threshold limit) is absolutely unacceptable!

According to Kuzbassenergosbyt (Kuznetsk Basin Power Grid) Director P. I. Podoprikhin, neither he nor his organisation have anything at all to do with the power cut-off, since they have no organisational or financial claims to Omiks; he recommended contacting the Belovo City Power Grid management to find out the reasons for the blackout. A local grid controller said the power supply had been cut off on orders from Belovo Mayor Gusarov; she did not supply any details about why the blackout had occurred without notice, after the end of a working day before a weekend. Belovo Grid Director V. P. Karelin later confirmed the controller’s information about Gusarov’s being behind the power cut-off as head of the Emergency Situations Commission, which thought it necessary to cut off some earthquake-damaged buildings, including the Omiks office, from power supply. The city police department, too, had received similar instructions, as it turned out later.

As regards Gusarov’s action, there are at least two points that deserve special attention:

1. No one during the period between the earthquake and 21 June 2013 ever examined the Omiks building specially or found it to be a house under the threat of collapse. There was no need for that, either, as the building did not suffer any damage, not even cracks, during the earthquake. The owners and tenants determined this after examining it on 19 June from within and without and finding nothing changed. Neither the municipal administration nor the Emergency Situations Department (ESD) displayed an interest in seeing the results of the inspection or visited the Omiks office at the time.

2. Still more important, power supply to the other half of the building, occupied by E. N. Semyonov, the owner, has remained uninterrupted up until now.

On the pretext of an emergency situation announced, officials have also ignored the law provisions requiring media and communication operator involvement in systems warning the population about emergencies (e.g., Article 11.2.1 of the Federal Law “On the Protection of the Population and Territories in Emergency Situations Caused by Natural Calamities and Anthropogenic Disasters”).

Most important, communication systems and operators cannot in principle be cut off from power supply by local authorities or the ESD, because, in line with Article 65.1 of the Federal Law “On Communications”, public communication networks are to be managed in emergency situations by the federal executive authority in charge of communications. Decisions to suspend or restrict the use of communication networks in the wake of natural calamities or anthropogenic disasters shall be made, in accordance with the Article 11 of the Regulations approved by RF Government Decision No. 895 of 31 December 2004, only by the Federal Communications Agency.

Other organisations unlawfully cut off from power supply together with Omiks on 21 June include OOO Cable Television Company (License No. 87664), housed in the same building, as a result of which at least 15,000 city residents were left with no access to TV that day. On 22 June, also without notice, a similar full blackout struck Omiks’ building at 37, Kuzbasskaya St., freezing the operation of communication systems belonging not only to Omiks but also to the mobile phone operators MTS, Megafon and Tele2, as well as the Kuzbass State TV/Radio Company. The affected parties reported the incident to the city police department on 23 June.

Police officers stood guard around the Omiks office since early morning on 22 June, not letting Omiks staffers through to their workplace. Others, however, could enter the building without any restrictions, as confirmed by video recordings made at the site. Police – again – cited Mayor Gusarov’s orders to restrict access to the Omiks premises in view of a need to “check the building in terms of seismic stability”. Such an examination was carried out, with not a single indicator of the building’s “seismic vulnerability” found; instead, going beyond the subject matter of the examination, the inspectors pointed to some violations of fire safety by Omiks and to its use of some premises not as originally intended. A certain commission of ESD officials, policemen and mayoral officers wrote a direction urging Mayor Gusarov to ban the building’s use altogether. Police officers ejected the Omiks staffers from the company premises by force, after which ESD Chief S. V. Nosov sealed off all the offices. In line with the same direction, a private security company, Lev, was appointed to guard the building.

We see the above-described actions as unlawful and going far beyond the range of authority of the officials involved. One other detail: Deputy Mayor A. V. Frank, mentioned in the protocol as a commission member, did not actually take part in the inspection and did not visit the Omiks building. His signature under the direction is a fake.

For further details, see www.omiks.tv

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни