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Russia4 November 2002

Reporters Without Borders refers new anti-terrorist law to UN and Council of Europe

Reporters Without Borders said today it was "greatly concerned" about Russia’s new anti-terrorist law, which includes a sharp reduction of press freedom.

"Russians already lack reliable and independent news about what is going on in Chechnya", said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to the United Nations and the Council of Europe. "Such censorship must not be strengthened and entrenched under cover of the fight against terrorism."

He asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, and the president of the Council of Europe’s ministerial committee, Lydie Polfer, to stress to the Russian government that the new law, passed by the Duma (parliament) on 1 November, violated international press freedom standards.

Several Russian media have been punished for their coverage of the recent hostage-taking episode in Moscow. On 25 October, information minister Mikhail Lessin ordered the closure of the regional TV station Moskovia for violating the anti-terrorist and press laws. He also threatened to shut down the Internet website of the radio station Moscow Echo for posting an interview with the kidnappers.

The offices of the weekly Versia were also searched on 2 November by FSB secret police, who seized its Internet server. Managing editor Andrei Soldatov said the raid was linked with a forthcoming article, eventually published on 4 November, about the role of the special security forces in ending of the hostage-taking.

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