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Russia14 March 2008

Support for Moscow daily targeted by smear campaign and hacker attack on website

(GIF) Reporters Without Borders today voiced its support for the Moscow-based daily Kommersant, which has been the target of a smear campaign and hacker attacks on its website for the past two weeks. The newspapers has filed a complaint with the Moscow prosecutor’s office.

“We urge the authorities to carry out a swift and thorough investigation to identify those responsible this smear campaign,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is an insult to the work of this newspaper’s journalists, whom we fully support in this case. The accusations make it even harder for them to do their job. The public must be able to have access to the reports in Kommersant, which is one of the country’s few remaining independent news media.”

Kommersant was bought on 31 August by mining and metals magnate Alisher Usmanov, who also owns a Gazprom subsidiary. It has demonstrated a degree of independence and itis often criticised by the government. Its journalists are regularly threatened.

For the past 10 days, its website has been the target of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which consist of bombarding a site with an extremely high volume of connection requests and thereby blocking the server.

Georgiy Ivanov, the head of Kommersant’s legal department, described the attacks as “the most important against the site since its creation.” Reporters Without Borders tried for half an hour yesterday to connect to the site without success.

Young people distributed rolls of toilet paper bearing the newspaper’s logo two weeks ago on the streets of Moscow. Some rolls also bore the mobile phone number of one of its reporters, Yulia Taratuta, who thereafter received many anonymous calls. Kommersant said some of the toilet rolls were even found inside the Duma (parliament) building.

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