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IFJ urges Microsoft to reach deal with journalists as government uses anti-piracy campaign as cover for media intimidation

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 8 February 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Appeals to Microsoft as Russia Uses Anti-Piracy Campaign as a Cover for Media Intimidation

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Microsoft Corporation to reach a deal with Russian journalists over copyright issues following a blitz of lawsuits by the government, which is targeting independent media outlets.

"Under the pretence of concern over piracy issues the government is waging a new campaign to silence its media critics," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The government is using legitimate concerns over copyright protection to justify a new assault on press freedom."

The IFJ says that piracy is endemic in Russia, where more than 90 percent of Russian media use unlicensed software. In a largely undeveloped media market, many outlets cannot afford software licenses, so the IFJ's affiliate, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), has begun negotiations with Microsoft to agree on a new system that will allow the poorest media operations either to get initial licensees for free or have access to heavily-discounted licenses.

The talks come as the authorities have initiated 20 criminal cases against journalists and several media outlets including Novaya Gazeta in Samara, the Tollyatinskoye Obozrenie and other independent media.

Software piracy is costing Microsoft more than $150,000,000 a year, the RUJ estimates. The union says that providing the poorest 3,500 media outlets with free software for 35,000 computers and introducing a three-year discount arrangement for other media would make software access affordable and would help the company to claw back much lost revenue.

The IFJ has written to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer supporting the RUJ's appeal for a quick decision to approve this arrangement and to have it put into immediate effect.

"This deal is win-win for journalism and for Microsoft," said White. "Microsoft will increase its revenue, protect its licensed software and will also help media fight off the unwelcome attentions of authorities who have an agenda that is more about targeting troublesome journalists than about ending the scandal of copyright piracy."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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