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Russia8 February 2008

Police remove all computers from newspaper in southern city

Reporters Without Borders condemns the seizure of all 20 of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye’s computers in a police raid on the newspaper’s headquarters in Tolyati, in the southern region of Samara, on 1 February. Use of pirated software was the grounds given by the police for taking the computers, which has paralysed the newspaper, one of the most popular in the region.

“The confiscation of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye’s computers is a threat to media pluralism in the region,” the press freedom organisation said. “The seizure of computer equipment is common practice by the authorities in the Samara region. Novaya Gazeta had to close its local bureau on 12 November after the police took its equipment. The pretexts used by the authorities fail to disguise the fact that this is politically-motivated harassment.”

Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye editor Pavel Kaledin said the pirated software accusations were completely groundless as the newspaper has signed a contract with Microsoft. He said the authorities were trying to prevent the newspaper from appearing because it has been carrying stories about Serguei Andreyev, an independent politician who is very critical of the ruling United Russia party. Last week the police confiscated copies of an issue that quoted Andreyev.

The newspaper’s founder, Valeri Ivanov, and its then editor, Alexei Sidorov, were both killed within the space of a few months in 2002 and 2003. Kaledin said he did not think there was any link between those murders and the recent events.

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