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«The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political ...»

-- [ Page 7 ] --

Government officials occasionally responded to negative coverage by taking legal action against journalists and media outlets. Although the law prohibits courts from imposing damages in libel and defamation cases that would bankrupt a media organization, one NGO reported that local courts did not always respect the law in practice.

On March 29, a court in Tula ordered the local newspaper Rubezh to pay 500 thousand rubles ($16,100) to settle a libel case filed by Tula Region Governor Vyacheslav Dudka in connection with a story the newspaper published about corruption in the local government.

On September 2, police conducted the latest of several raids on the offices of New Times magazine that were connected with an article, entitled "Slaves of the OMON," alleging abuses and corruption within the OMON (special purpose police units). The article included interviews with unnamed sources within OMON;

police demanded that the magazine turn over documents and recordings that would identify the sources. On May 12, the Moscow City Court, concurring with an earlier Tverskoy District Court decision, ordered the seizure of the documents and recordings as evidence in a libel case authorities brought against the magazine. The New Times' editor provided a transcript of the interviews to the police during the raid, but refused to name the sources or surrender the recordings, citing laws providing for protection of journalists' sources.

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On September 8, Sergey Mikhaylov, editor in chief of the Altai region newspaper Listok, which is often critical of regional authorities, went on trial on charges of libel and inciting ethnic hatred based on two articles that contained phrases that local authorities deemed offensive. Investigators searched Mikhaylov's apartment and confiscated his computer. Mikhaylov's colleagues argued that the case against him was politically motivated.

On September 9, the Supreme Court of Dagestan rejected a lawsuit filed by local authorities in June 2009 seeking to shut down the independent Dagestan weekly Chernovik because of its alleged support for extremist views. In April, a court rejected a suit by the former chairman of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Ella Pamfilova, against the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, claiming that the paper had insulted her honor, dignity, and reputation. The court's decision reaffirmed the right of the press to criticize the government and the manner in which members of the government perform their duties.

In January the Moscow prosecutor's office reversed the Moscow city police directorate's refusal to open a libel case filed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against Novaya Gazeta editor in chief Dmitriy Muratov and three other journalists of the newspaper for publishing an investigative article in February 2009 about the killing in Vienna of Kadyrov's former bodyguard, Umar Israilov (see section 1.a.).

Kadyrov dropped his case in February after the first court session.

On January 19, prosecutors in Samara closed a criminal case against Sergey KurtAdzhiyev, the editor of the local edition of Novaya Gazeta, who was fined 15,000 rubles ($496) in 2008 for using unlicensed software on his office computer. KurtAdzhiyev appealed the sentence, and further examination of the case ordered by the court revealed prosecutorial violations, as well as new exculpatory evidence.

However, the Samara edition of Novaya Gazeta continued to be unable to publish;

investigators confiscated all of its computers in 2007.

Officials at all levels used their authority, sometimes publicly, to restrict or limit the effectiveness of journalists who criticized them. One method was to deny the media access to events and information, including denying filming opportunities and statistics theoretically available to the public. On May 16, police prevented a correspondent of the GTRK Kuban television station from covering a public rally in Krasnodar. The correspondent was taken to a police station and released after several hours. On May 31, police in Moscow detained several journalists,

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including correspondents of New Times, Radio France Internationale, Novaya Gazeta, and ITAR-TASS, who attempted to cover a rally in support of freedom of assembly that had been prohibited by city authorities.

There were no known cases of reporters being detained in Chechnya. Journalists in Chechnya, however, continued to face pressure and restrictions. There were minor instances of journalists being briefly detained in other North Caucasus republics.

The editor of the Dosh journal, Israpil Shovkhalov, was briefly detained on March 9 by the authorities in Ingushetiya. A correspondent of the weekly publication New Business was detained on March 2 for a short time while covering a protest in Makhachkala. The government continued to use legislation and decrees to curtail media freedom. The law provides an expansive definition of extremism and gives law enforcement officials broad authority to suspend media outlets that do not comply with the law's restrictions. Media freedom advocates asserted that officials used the law to restrict criticism and label independent reporters as extremists.

Authorities may close any organization deemed extremist by submitting charges to a court, which the organization concerned cannot challenge.

As in previous years, the antiextremism law was applied to media outlets and activists. Novaya Gazeta was warned for an article examining Russia's right-wing radical groups, and Vedemosti was warned for an article on female suicide bombers. These warnings discouraged coverage of these controversial topics by other news outlets.





The Justice Ministry continued to expand its list of "extremist" materials during the year to include more than 700 items, up from 467 in 2009. The list included materials produced by Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists; the works of Muslim scholar Said Nursi; a picture of Winnie the Pooh wearing a swastika; a flag with a cross; and the Web site Samizdat, which was similar to Wikipedia and which had more than 500,000 subscribers. Some analysts asserted that the vague definitions of "extremism" were expanding the list to the point of discrediting the concept altogether.

Officials or unidentified individuals sometimes used force or took extreme measures to prevent the circulation of publications not favored by the government.

For example, on March 10, police in Vladimir seized copies of the newspaper Vechernaya Ryazan, which carried campaign advertising by the local branch of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party. The police claimed that the publication of advertising involved legal violations. On March 17, prosecutors in Vladivostok

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seized copies of the local opposition newspaper Protestnoye Dvizheniye, which published an open letter to the local prosecutor. On May 28, police in Kemerovo stopped a vehicle carrying copies of the local newspaper Sovetskiy Kuzbass and seized all the copies, claiming that the newspaper's issue included articles with extremist content. On September 7, police in Korolev seized copies of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, stating that the newspaper had to be "checked for extremist material."

Copies of the report Putin. Results. 10 Years, written by former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov and former deputy energy minister Vladimir Milov, were confiscated on several occasions. On August 25, local police from Murmansk detained two activists from the Solidarity opposition movement when they attempted to transfer the publication from a train to their vehicle. Approximately a thousand copies reportedly were confiscated by the Murmansk police for analysis for the presence of "extremist literature." Police in St. Petersburg confiscated 200,000 copies of the publication on June 15 and 17 but later released them after determining that the literature was not extremist.

According to the GDF and other media NGOs, authorities continued to engage in selective investigations into intellectual property rights violations (i.e., use of pirated software) to confiscate computers and pressure opposition media across the country. On September 13, Microsoft announced that it would create a unilateral software license for NGOs and independent media in a number of countries, including Russia, to prevent authorities from using antipiracy enforcement as a pretext to pressure NGOs.

A 2006 warning to the media against referring to the National Bolshevik Party without indicating that it was banned remained in place. The media were informed that omitting to mention the party's illegality could be considered dissemination of false information and lead to the "application of restrictive, precautionary, and preventive measures."

According to the GDF and media NGOs, some authorities used the media's widespread dependence on the government for transmission facilities, access to property, and printing and distribution services to discourage critical reporting. The GDF reported that approximately 90 percent of print media organizations relied on state-controlled organizations for paper, printing, or distribution, and many television stations were forced to rely on the government (in particular, regional committees for the management of state property) for access to the airwaves and

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office space. The GDF also reported that officials continued to manipulate the price of printing at state-controlled publishing houses to apply pressure on private media rivals. It noted that this practice was more common outside the Moscow area.

–  –  –

The government did not restrict access to the Internet. Internet use in Russia grew exponentially during the year to between 40-50 million users. There was a growing use of social networking, blogs, and increasing reliance on the Internet as an alternative news source. Individuals and groups could generally engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail, but traffic reportedly was monitored by the government. The government continued to employ a "system for operational investigative measures," which required Internet service providers to install, at their own expense, a device that routes all customer traffic to an FSB terminal. The system enabled police to track private e-mail communications, identify Internet users personally, and monitor their Internet activity. Although legislation formally protects individual privacy, prohibiting wiretapping of any kind without a court order, there appeared to be no mechanism to prevent FSB access to e-mail traffic or private information. Authorities were not required to give telecommunications companies or individuals documentation on targets of interest prior to accessing information.

There was widespread and growing access to the Internet through home, work, and public venues. Approximately 35 to 40 percent of adults had Internet access with a far larger percentage in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In contrast to other forms of media, the law does not require sites to register as mass media, and unregistered sites were not subject to administrative sanctions. Internet forums, including blogging services, increasingly served as the most open media vehicles in the country for expressing political views. Nonetheless, some bloggers were investigated or charged for their Internet postings based on extremely broad definitions of prohibited activities, such as "extremism" or inciting hatred, as well as libel. In addition the law allows authorities to hold bloggers liable for comments that others post on their blogs. In April 2009 authorities issued warnings to massinformation Internet sites against negative coverage of government news.

–  –  –

ethnic hatred in their blogs for quoting a book criticizing Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov.

On July 28, a court in Komsomolsk-na-Amure ordered the local Internet service provider Rosnet to block access to five popular Web sites, including You Tube and web.archive.org, which authorities stated contained extremist video materials and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. Rosnet appealed the verdict, and in September the higher court altered the controversial ruling and listed particular pages with "extremist materials" that have to be blocked instead of the whole resource.

On June 15, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows authorities to demand that media organizations remove from their Web sites material posted by users that authorities deem extremist, slanderous, or liable to incite hatred. At least four bloggers were investigated or prosecuted during the year, according to Reporters Without Borders.

On May 15, authorities shut down a discussion community on the popular social network VKontakte that discussed the consequences of the deadly accident at the Raspadskaya coal mine. According to the GDF, law enforcement officers demanded that popular blogger Marina Litvinovich, who managed the community, provide them with the site password, which they used to make the community unavailable for access.

On March 19, authorities ordered the Web site March 20 to close down for publishing "extremist" content. The Web site published information about plans for Day of Wrath protest rallies in various cities held by opposition movement activists. According to RiaNovosti, Solidarity movement member Olga Kumosova claimed that the site was used for the purpose of planning protest slogans and the closure was illegal.

On January 15, the Tatarstan Supreme Court confirmed the sentence issued to Tatar writer and journalist Irek Murtazin. In November 2009 a court in Kazan sentenced Murtazin to 21 months in prison on charges brought by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev that included "disseminating false information" about the president and "violating his privacy" by suggesting in a 2008 blog that Shaimiev had died while vacationing in Turkey.

–  –  –

to block the popular blogging site LiveJournal on a local Internet server, and in August the local authorities blocked the Tulksiye Pryaniki Web site that was critical of the authorities. After the December 11 ethnic riots in Manezh Square in Moscow, the popular Vkontakte Web site removed what it characterized as dangerous content in cooperation with the police and FSB.



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