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Russia4 March 2008

Many journalists prevented from freely covering presidential election

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Reporters Without Borders condemns the press freedom violations that took place during Russia’s presidential election on 2 March. “The incidents that occurred during the election are indicative of the nervousness that the authorities feel towards independent journalists,” the organisation said.

In South Sakhalin, reporter Pavel Abakumov of the weekly Yuzhno Sakhalinsk Tvoya Gazeta was attacked by an army lieutenant when he tried to verify whether any electoral fraud was taking place.

Photographer Evgeni Ivanov was accused of “resisting the authorities” and “failing to register” when he refused to stop taking photos in a polling station in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

In St. Petersburg, reporter Tamara Rozunkova of Grajdanskiy Golos was detained by a militia unit for being in a polling station without “official authorisation.” Her newspaper is produced by Golos, an NGO that was monitoring the election.

Although his papers and permits were in order, another Grajdanskiy Golos reporter was refused access to a polling station in Chelyabinsk and was told to remain at least 50 metres away from the entrance. He was arrested when governor Piotr Sumin arrived but was soon released as he had committed no offence. He nonetheless continued to be denied entry to the polling station.

Reporter Anton Nazarov of Vpered, a local daily based in the Moscow suburb of Ximki, was attacked by militiamen as he left a polling station with a ballot in his hand. He had done this after being told by the electoral commission that it would not be a problem.

In Moscow and in the Astrakhan region, journalists were told to keep more than 50 metres away from polling stations and were prevented by the security forces from interviewing voters. A journalist with the London-based Daily Telegraph was unable to interview voters in the Moscow district of Sokol.

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