Masked police raid Russian opposition magazine: editor

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Russian police, including masked members of the special forces, raided Thursday the offices of outspoken opposition magazine The New Times as part of a libel probe, its chief editor said.

"There were spetsnaz (special forces) in masks with Kalashnikovs," the magazine's editor Yevgenia Albats told AFP.

Police asked for records of interviews given by members of the OMON riot police who revealed rampant abuses to the magazine, Albats said.

The Moscow city police are carrying out a libel investigation over articles printed in the New Times this year in which riot police disclosed criminal practices including gathering protection money from prostitutes and using Central Asian migrants as slave labour.

The magazine handed over a written transcript of the interviews without the sources' names, but police asked for audio or video recordings, Albats said.

She said that she had refused since this would reveal the identity of anonymous sources.

"The fact is, there is article 41 of the law on media that explicitly prohibits journalists from revealing sources if interviews were given on condition of anonymity, so we are following the law," she said.

"The minute I give up my sources will be the end of the reputation of this magazine."

The law only requires journalists to reveal sources if a case is in court, she said.

As part of the probe, police had already come to the magazine's offices in April.

"We expect them to come back," Albats said, adding that she sees the case as an attempt to intimidate the country's independent media.

"Definitely they are trying to put pressure on the magazine, to make us to be afraid to write our stories and also to send a message to other media in the Russian Federation."

Police on Tuesday broke up an opposition protest in Moscow demanding the right to demonstrate, and detained at least 70 activists. They also rounded up 60 protesters during similar protests in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.

© 2010 AFP

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