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Newspaper issue faces publishing, distribution difficulties, editor-in-chief questioned

(CJES/IFEX) - The 20 July 2007 edition of "Mordovia Segodnya", an independent weekly newspaper published in the city of Saransk, the capital of the central Russian republic of Mordovia, was devoted to the recent arrest of the paper's founder, editor Anatoly Sardayev (see IFEX alert of 19 July 2007). On the front page, the words "There is no free press in Mordovia!" were written in large letters.

The paper's acting editor-in-chief, Natalya Belyanina, told CJES the words were in three languages - English, Finnish, and Hungarian - because the edition was disseminated at the Finno-Ugric festival, which was held in the republic on 19-21 July.

Belyanina said the paper had to be printed in neighbouring Penza as the Saransk printing houses refused to print it. She also said that law enforcement agencies tried to prevent the dissemination of the paper at the festival and forcibly took several copies of the paper from her.

On 21 July, Belyanina was summoned to the prosecutor's office for questioning. She told CJES she was accused of trying to put pressure on judicial authorities in connection with the Sardayev case.

CJES advisor Igor Telin says he fears Belyanina may be charged with extremism.

"Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the amendments to the law on extremism it will be a very good time to organize a high-profile trial to show the mass media that the authorities are not joking. And Belyanina is a good choice for such a trial," said Telin.

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