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Independent newspaper suspends publication in response to pressure

(GDF/IFEX) - 23 January 2012 - Albert Stepantsev, general director of the newspaper "Moi Gorod-Kostroma" (MGK), has complained to the Glasnost Defence Foundation about "administrative pressure that has led to a suspension of the operation of the Kostroma Region's sole independent newspaper".

"We have not worked in vain during the past six months," he wrote. "We have released 22 newspaper issues, each of which was read and discussed by the entire city. We sought to highlight urgent problems that are of interest to Kostroma residents, and pursued an editorial policy boiling down to the formula 'Don't keep silent and don't lie'. Our newspaper showed sustainable development."

However, the independent newspaper's existence was not to everybody's liking in the city and region. "From the very outset," Stepantsev wrote, "we have been subject to administrative pressure that grew ever stronger and more impertinent day after day, reaching its peak before the latest parliamentary elections, when the police repeatedly detained our reporters and did not admit them to various public events, and when OBEP [special police against economic crime], the antimonopoly agency, Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications], and other authorities exhausted us by a score of different inspections. We were ejected from our office. Attempts have been repeatedly made to smear our newspaper through provocative and openly slanderous discussions on the chat forums of local websites."

On New Year's eve, it seemed, passions had calmed down and the MGK staffers got busy preparing a regular issue of their newspaper. But right after the New Year holidays, suspicious characters identifying themselves as OBEP servicemen, or as prosecutors, started calling and going round the offices of advertisers to tell them MGK had not paid its taxes, was facing numerous legal charges, and they should immediately cease co-operating with it unless they wanted problems with the overseeing and controlling agencies. "With about a dozen incidences of such phone calls and visits already verified, the newspaper's operation in its previous format and with the previous circulation is becoming impossible," Stepantsev said. "We are looking for a solution," he wrote, "that would enable us to continue releasing our newspaper and fulfilling our obligations to the remaining advertisers and readers. Details of the pressure on MGK and its advertisers will be reported to the competent bodies. We hereby warn everyone involved in this persecution campaign, whatever their official ranks or positions, that interference with a media outlet's lawful operation is a criminal offence, as is abuse of one's official position."

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