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Russia17 July 2002

Appeal to French president to seek release of Grigory Pasko

Reporters sans frontières appealed to French President Jacques Chirac to raise the case of imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 19 and 20 July.

The organisation noted that Pasko had been in prison since last December serving a four-year sentence for high treason, confirmed by the military division of the Russian supreme court on 25 June this year. The letter to Chirac, signed by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, said in part:

image 125 x 99 (JPEG) "We ask you to raise once again the serious case of violation of basic rights in Russia involving journalist Grigory Pasko and to seek his speedy release from prison. He was accused of spying after filming and making public the Russian Navy’s dumping of liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan in 1997. He spent 20 months in prison between 1997 and 1999 in connection with the affair. What he reported was public knowledge at the time and therefore not a state secret.

"Week after week, events show the emptiness of Russian official assurances about the state of press freedom there. After the dismantling in 2000 and 2001 of the main privately-owned media conglomerates, killings and physical attacks on journalists have increased, forcing the entire press to censor itself.

(...) "Pressure on the media has got much worse in several republics of the Russian Federation and in parts of Siberia. Regional authorities are stepping up their threats, pressure and obstruction of the independent press. Physical violence towards journalists has steadily increased in the past two years.

(...) "This trend is ominous for the future of Russia. So we ask you to remind President Putin during your talks with him that free exercise of the right to be informed is vital to democracy. Pasko’s case is a test of the Russian authorities’ promise to safeguard this basic freedom," Ménard said.

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