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Municipal district assembly introduces restrictive rules on journalist accreditation

(CJES/IFEX) - The Balakovo Municipal District Assembly has introduced new accreditation rules for the mass media, REGNUM information agency reported on 2 July 2007, quoting the mass media of the town of Balakovo, in Saratov region.

Journalists believe the new rules contradict federal legislation. Under the new rules, media organizations seeking accreditation for their staff members are required to furnish additional documents apart from the usual application form and a copy of the registration certificate. The additional documents include a copy of the organization's charter and a copy of the labor contract between the editorial board and the journalist seeking accreditation. Journalists seeking accreditation are also required to provide a copy of their editorial pass or another identification documents certifying that they are journalists.

The new accreditation rules state that accredited journalists have the right to be present at the Assembly's meetings (by law, any citizen can do so) and the right to get copies of press releases (which are supplied to the media by parliamentarians).

No media organization has been given any official orientation to the new accreditation rules. Local journalists say they intend to oppose the new rules as they violate their right to access information.

CJES lawyer Boris Panteleyev believes the journalists' claims are well-grounded. "The essence of the problem is that the authorities at all levels are trying to create comfortable conditions for themselves, for which they are taking tough measures to shield themselves from curious eyes and ears. I believe this accreditation red tape is aimed at making journalists run around getting different papers and make them understand who really runs the city," he said.

Panteleyev said the new accreditation rules contradict Article 48 of the Mass Media Law, which deals with accreditation issues and which does not mention any documents needed for accreditation other than "an application".

Panteleyev pointed out one stipulation of the new rules, which states that accreditation can only be issued to editorial boards that have been operational as media organizations for at least one year since their registration. "This means that new media, which were registered several months ago, cannot be accredited. This means that the parliamentarians are, in effect, impeding the development of media space in the region," he said.

"The parliamentarians have given special attention to journalists' duties. The new accreditation rules require journalists to 'respect the lawful interests, honor and dignity of the Head and members of the Assembly and the Assembly staff'. This provision can mean only one thing: Journalists are required to love and respect parliamentarians, and that means that no criticism of parliamentarians or journalistic investigations are allowed. But that's absurd," said Panteleyev.

Panteleyev believes the intention of the Balakovo journalists to boycott the parliamentarians if the new rules are not abolished is perfectly lawful.

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