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Russia16 December 2004

Sakharov Prize-winning journalist’s passport confiscated

Journalist Mikhaïl Afanassiev, who was named winner of the Sakharov Prize, was released from prison in Abakan in the autonomous republic of Hakasia on 11 December but still faces defamation charges. Since his passport was confiscated on his arrest and was not returned, he was unable to travel to Moscow to receive his prize, awarded by the Glasnost Defence Foundation. The Foundation, which was due to present him with the prize on 11 December, has offered to send representatives to Abakan, if the journalist still does not have his passport.

Prize-winning journalist arrested and charged with defamation

10 december 2004

russian version

Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of independent journalist Mikhail Afanassiev, who was arrested as he prepared to travel to Moscow to receive the Sakharov Prize of the Glasnost Defence Foundation.

Afanassiev was picked up on 9 December 2004 on a defamation charge as he was leaving a hospital in Abakan, in the autonomous region of Hakasia.

"We call for the immediate release of this journalist arrested when he was about to travel to Moscow to receive the Sakharov Prize, awarded to the most courageous journalists," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"There can be no justification for holding a journalist in custody when he is only doing his job", the organisation said in a letter to the chief prosecutor for the autonomous republic of Hakasia, Alexander Beloshitsky.

Local police cited Article 129 of the criminal code on defamation, relating to an article carried on 6 December on the website headlined, "A bunch of hunters have taken power".

Afanassiev was preparing to get official permission from the local authorities to travel to Moscow on 11 December to receive the Sakharov Prize, awarded by the Glasnost Defence Foundation.

His main work is for the Moscow media and is chiefly investigative. He has often proved himself outspoken about subjects seen as sensitive and has already had five defamation charges laid against him since the start of the year, three of which were subsequently dropped.

russian version

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