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Russia14 November 2007

Harassment forces Novaya Gazeta to close regional bureau

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Reporters Without Borders today condemned harassment of the independent biweekly Novaya Gazeta, which announced on 12 November that it has been forced to close its regional bureau in the southwestern city of Samara as result of the seizure of its sole remaining computer for alleged use of pirated software. The bureau produced a regional edition.

“We deplore the insidious nature of the pressure being put on this newspaper, which has brought its regional bureau to a standstill,” the press freedom organisation said. “This closure is above all the result of a political will to bring the Russian press into line in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We reaffirm our support for Novaya Gazeta, whose problems in Samara are linked to a ‘March of the Dissenters’ in the city in May that was organised by the bureau chief’s daughter.”

The bureau chief and editor of the Samara edition, Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev, said the bureau had been operating under “critical” conditions for two months and that it was clear the authorities had wanted “to strangle the newspaper on the eve of the elections.” The harassment began with the seizure on three computers on 11 May, on the eve of the “March of the Dissenters.” Kurt-Adzhiyev’s own computer was confiscated on 8 November. Samara is 900 km southeast of Moscow.

It has emerged that Kurt-Adzhiyev has been the target of a judicial investigation since 14 May for the alleged use of counterfeit software. He did not discover this until 17 October.

The Samara bureau’s closure is not an isolated case. Novaya Gazeta’s Nizhny-Novgorod’s edition has also been paralysed since the seizure of software from its bureau on 29 August on a similar pretext.

The use of pirated software is widespread in Russia and does not normally give rise to prosecutions.

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