Russian opposition paper says risks closure

18th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Russian authorities may close leading opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta for purportedly propagating "extremism" in an investigative article about a nationalist group, the paper said Monday.

The Novaya Gazeta frequently features stories highly critical of the government and has had five journalists killed in the past 10 years, among them Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in 2006 near her Moscow apartment.

The threat of closure comes after the tri-weekly received a warning from a state watchdog over a January article about ultra-nationalist group Russkiy Obraz (Russian way).

"We may be closed," deputy editor Sergei Sokolov wrote in a statement posted on the newspaper's blog. "Quite possibly, next year you will not see Novaya Gazeta in kiosks nor in your mailboxes."

The article has "dispersed information containing indications of extremism" in publishing an excerpt from the organisation's programme and photos of its members holding a flag with Nazi symbols and doing the Hitler salute, said the warning from Russia's media watchdog, posted on the paper's blog.

The Novaya Gazeta has argued that the controversial material was featured to explain the danger of such groups.

It featured the story shortly after one of its staff, Anastasia Baburova, was killed in broad daylight in Moscow in January 2009 along with lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who frequently represented anti-fascists in court.

The paper has tried to appeal the warning, but failed when a Moscow court ruled in September that the watchdog, the Committee on Media Oversight, was fair, Sokolov said.

By Russian law, the authorities can close a media outlet after two such warnings.

"We have the right to ask: support of the ultra-right and the attempts to close newspapers that oppose them -- is this the policy of the government and the Russian court system?" asked Sokolov.

© 2010 AFP

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