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Russia26 February 2003

Closure of opposition newspaper Noviye Izvestia

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its concern at the closure until April 2003 of opposition daily Noviye Izvestia.

The organisation said it feared that it meant a further cutback in Russian opposition newspapers under the guise of financial difficulties.

Oleg Mitvol, majority shareholder of the Noviye Izvestia (owning 76% of the paper) announced the suspension of the newspaper on 25 February.

An editorial staff protest on 21 February prevented the newspaper from appearing the day after managing director and editor in chief Igor Golembiovsky was dismissed by Oleg Mitov from his position of managing director, officially over financial problems.

Several articles had recently appeared in the newspaper criticising President Putin or saying that "people no longer have confidence in Putin", including one on 20 February by journalist Vladimir Pribilovsky on the cult of Vladimir Putin.

"Sidelining the editor in chief of Noviye Isvestia and the temporary shutdown of one of the only newspapers critical of the government - that denounces war in Chechnya and human rights violations - appears too useful to the Kremlin in the run-up to elections to be a coincidence", said Reporters Without Borders General Secretary Robert Ménard.

All this was taking place in a climate in which the Kremlin was re-taking control of opposition media, a policy orchestrated by Vladmir Putin since he took power. "It is very worrying to see the extent to which the liberal press is slowly but surely shrinking in Russia," he added.

Reporters Without Borders recalled that Noviye Izvestia was part of the media empire of the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky whose main media holdings, known for their independent approach to news, were systematically taken over by the Kremlin since Vladimir Putin took power. In 1997 Boris Berezovsky handed over control of the majority of Noviye Izvestia’s shares to Oleg Mitvol.

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