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Russia - North Ossetia20 December 2004

Russian journalist faces expulsion after court takes passport

Journalist Yuri Bagrov was fined about 400 euros for forgery on 17 December by the municipal court of Leninski, in Vladikavkaz (the capital of North Ossetia), which refused to accept the validity of the Russian passport he obtained in 2003 as a replacement for his old Soviet passport. Stripped of his ID papers and, as a result, his Russian citizenship, he now risks expulsion from Russia.

A correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and former Associated Press correspondent, Bagrov said he thought the conviction was directly linked to his work. He has reported on the conditions of Chechen refugees, smuggling in the Caucasus and kidnapping in Ingushetia. He said he would appeal to the North Ossetia supreme court.

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Correspondent working for foreign media faces charges and has passport confiscated 13 october 2004

Russian version

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its concern at legal action faced by one of the very few journalists working for the western media in the North Caucasus.

Yuri Bagrov, regional correspondent for Associated Press (AP) and the US Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE), was prevented from covering 29 August presidential elections in Chechnya after Russian secret services (FSB) seized his passport during a search of his home four days earlier.

The prosecutor’s office in Iristonsky, North Ossetia then opened an investigation into his legal status on 17 September.

Reporters Without Borders has written to interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliev, to express its concern.

"We urge you to ensure that the investigation quickly determines the relevance of legal action against Yuri Bagrov and to see that such procedures are not used to prevent independent journalists from doing their work," said the international press freedom organisation.

FSB officers on 25 August conducted early morning searches at Bagrov’s home and office and at his mother’s apartment. They seized a huge quantity of documents, files and computers.

Since they also took his passport, Bagrov was unable to leave Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia, to travel to Chechnya for the presidential elections on 29 August or to Beslan, scene of a tragic three-day school siege from 1-3 September.

Bagrov was informed on 6 October that he faced charges under Article 327 of the criminal code for "forgery". The journalist, originally from Tbilissi, Georgia, settled in Vladikavkaz in 1992. At the time he had a Soviet passport.

He took Russian nationality and obtained a passport in 2003 based on a ruling of a regional court. It is the validity of that decision that is now being challenged by the Iristonsky prosecutor’s office.

Bagrov told Reporters Without Borders that since he was the only permanent correspondent for the foreign media in Vladikavkaz, he could "say things that a journalist from a Russian media could not".

In May 2004, he wrote articles about corruption and smuggling within the army in the North Caucasus. Soon afterwards he learned from a friend that FSB officers had checked on his personal file at the public records office.

Bagrov studied in Russia and lives there. His mother and wife both have Russian nationality. This should, under the law, be enough to obtain a Russian passport, the journalist said.

Reporters Without Borders has also recently protested at obstacles put in the way of media coverage during the Beslan tragedy. The organisation also expressed fears that a media blackout currently affecting Chechnya could be extended to cover the whole region.

Russian version

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