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Russia21 November 2006

Court extends custody for Permsky Obozrevatel photographer

A court in Perm has extended custody for photographer Vladimir Korolev of the financial weekly Permsky Obozrevatel until 23 December 2006.

“Reporters Without Borders condemns the prison conditions of this 55-year-old journalist, who has serious health problems. We call for him to released on bail during the preparation of the case against him,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The prosecutor’s office in Perm said Vladimir Korolev was not being held in connection with his journalistic work. The charge against him was apparently linked to his work for the security firm Alpha, of which the director is Igor Grinberg, who also founded Permsky Obozrevatel. The photographer claims the authorities are trying to discredit Grinberg and to drive Permsky Obozrevatel, one of the region’s rare independent newspapers, out of business.


Raids on journalists’ homes in continuing harassment of Perm-based independent weekly

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Reporters Without Borders today condemned the continuing harassment of the Perm-based business weekly Permsky Obozrevatel after police raided the homes of several of its journalists on 27 September, confiscating computers and personal files. The newspaper is very critical of Perm governor Oleg Chirkunov and is now the region’s only independent publication.

“These raids were carried out with the clear aim of depriving journalists of their work tools and encouraging self-censorship,” the press freedom organisation said. “We condemn the harassment of Permsky Obozrevatel, which has continued since the March elections. This is typical of the problems that local media must confront in Russia. As provincial governors are appointed by presidential decree, they do whatever Moscow wants and tolerate no criticism.”

The attempts to harass and intimidate Permsky Obozrevatel in recent months have included a printing ban, confiscation of copies, threats against journalists, arrests and raids on its office. As a result, its production and distribution is now very erratic.

Editor Tatyana Sokolova told Reporters Without Borders: “The authorities want to close down the newspaper because they are afraid of the local elections in December. Governor Chirkunov went so far as to say in an interview, ‘I am not anybody, I am the governor.’ He is not open to dialogue, he thinks he can ignore the opposition, democracy and press freedom. We have to ask President Vladimir Putin to replace him.”

Reporters Without Borders today also voiced concern about the health of Permsky Obozrevatel photographer Vladimir Korolyov, who was arrested on 13 September just after being treated for a heart attack, and was questioned without his lawyer being present. The charge against him was “illegally gathering and publishing information about the local police.”

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