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Government minister forces journalist to leave meeting

(CJES/IFEX) - Alexandra Srogonova, a journalist with the "Listok" newspaper, was made to leave a meeting held by Altai Republic Finance Minister Svetlana Gashkina in Gorno-Altaisk, Altai, on 13 August 2007. The minister ordered the journalist to leave, the REGNUM information agency reported.

The meeting addressed the provision of apartments to disabled housing investors, "Listok" founder Sergei Mikhailov said. "Several hours before the meeting, representatives of the investors asked our reporter to attend the meeting. We sent Alexander Strogonova because she covers regional government meetings regularly and there has never been any complaint about her from the executive authorities," Mikhailov told REGNUM.

Upon learning that Strogonova was present at the meeting, the minister said she had not invited the press and would end the meeting if the journalist did not leave. "I am a state servant and this is a state establishment. You have no right to come here like this," the minister told Strogonova.

According to REGNUM, Strogonova tried to insist that she had a right to be present at the meeting since it was held in a state establishment. In response to that, the minister demanded that the reporter leave.

The paper has asked the Gorno-Altaisk prosecutor to take action against the minister, whom it believes has prevented Strogonova from obtaining information of great social significance.

CJES lawyer Boris Panteleyev believes the newspaper has every reason to complain in this case. "As per Article 144 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (which deals with impeding the lawful professional activities of journalists, combined with abuse of office), Svetlana Gashkina can lose her job. However, unfortunately, the authorities rarely look into the Criminal Code to learn about their duties to citizens and journalists, and the implications of violations of the rights of citizens and the media," he said.

Panteleyev also said that the minister did not just violate Strogonova's right to receive information of social significance, but also her right as a citizen, because she has the right to be in a state establishment as a citizen.

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