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February 28, 2008

Russian freedom of speech “shrinking alarmingly”

By Julie Tomlin GR

There is less and less freedom of the media in the Russian Federation as a result of increasing restrictions on independent journalists in recent years, a report by Amnesty International claims.
News organisations have been shut and journalists are increasingly restricted by new legislation such as laws combating extremist activities, Amnesty said in a 52-page report Freedom Limited cataloguing the increasing restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Published ahead of the 2 March elections the report expresses concern over the lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Her death and that of Ivan Safronov who had been writing about arms deals for the daily Kommersant were proof that dissent was a matter of life or death for journalists, Amnesty’s director Kate Allen said.
The increased number of investigations into journalists and news organisations for alleged crimes such as inciting hatred or slander of officials were intended to intimidate the report concludes. Many of the investigations have not resulted in any criminal charges being made but could still have a ‘chilling effect’on the media, the report concludes.
Staff at radio station Ekho Moskvy were repeatedly asked to provide transcripts of their programmes to the prosecutor’s office after broadcasting an interview with Eduard Limonov, leader of the now banned National Bolshevist Party.
The interview was broadcast at a time when the ban of his organisation had not fully come into force and journalists said the text for all programmes can be accessed on the internet.

Free speech ‘shrinking’ in Russia – BBC
Amnesty says no opposition or debate in Russia election – Reuters

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