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Government eviction of journalists' union aims to sabotage international media event, says union

(CJES/IFEX) - On 15 May 2007, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) received a notice signed by Mr Grigoryev, deputy head of the territorial department of the Federal Property Management Agency (Rosimushchestvo), stating the termination of the contract allowing the union to occupy its office space on Moscow's Zubovsky Boulevard, giving no reasons for the decision.

The letter, dated 18 April, asked the union to vacate the premises within a month's time of the notice, which left the union with only three days, from the date the letter arrived, to comply with the order.

The RUJ issued a statement accusing the Federal Property Management Agency of "throwing out on the streets a 90-year-old organization, which employs over 100,000 journalists and which, we dare say, has contributed to the development of democracy and a law-governed state (in Russia). And the way it is being done leads one to assume that these steps are being taken to do away with the Russian Union of Journalists, due to the Union's consistent and uncompromising defense of the interests of the professional community, the constitutional rights and liberties of Russian citizens - in other words, of what we have until now believed we were perfectly entitled to expect the state to defend."

The World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists is due to open in Moscow on 28 May. The Congress takes place once every three years and Russia is planning to participate for the first time this year. The RUJ believes that the action taken by the Federal Property Management Agency is aimed at sabotaging the forum. The RUJ has expressed outrage about the fact that the authorities are planning to give the office space it is being asked to vacate to the television company Russia Today, which was created to promote a positive image of Russia to the world.

The statement says the RUJ is using its office space at Zubovsky Boulevard under a decree issued by Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia, in accordance with which the space was given to the union to be used free of charge, without a time limit.

"We are asking Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to get to the bottom of the situation and to bring the work of the Federal Property Management Agency back to the realm of the law and common sense. We are asking the State Duma to support us in our resistance to arbitrariness and lawlessness," the statement reads. The statement was signed by V. Bogdanov, chairman of the Russian Union of Journalists, I. Yakovenko, general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, and the union's secretaries A. Bogomolov, P. Gutionov and M. Fedotov.

CJES, a member of IFEX, is also headquartered in the building currently occupied by the RUJ.

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