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Government steps up pressure to close down journalists' union

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 27 February 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Leads Global Protest as Moscow Increases Threat to Close Down Independent Union of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists today called on journalists' unions around the world to join protests over a "cynical campaign" by Russian political bosses to close down the Russian Union of Journalists, the country's largest non-governmental organisation.

For the past year state agencies in Moscow have been trying to evict the Russian Union from premises they have occupied for almost 30 years and which they were promised ownership of by previous governments claiming the building is unsafe. Now the RUJ has learned that the government is trying to sell the building to a private owner and in the process put the RUJ on the street.

"The Russian Union has been one of the most strident critics of government pressure on independent journalism," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is the victim of intimidation and a cynical campaign by its political opponents who have failed to close the union using trumped-up charges of breaching fire regulations, now are trying to sell off offices that the union insists are legally their own."

The IFJ has sent a letter of protest to President Vladimir Putin and has called on its members around the world to join the campaign to help save the union. The IFJ traces the campaign against the Russian Union to the world congress of journalists it hosted in June last year when journalists' leaders from almost 100 countries strongly criticized attacks on press freedom and the Putin regime's failure to act over the killings of journalists.

"This crisis is not a property dispute," said White. "It is a determined effort to stifle the voice of independent journalism in a country where democracy is under fire and media freedom has been plunged into darkness."

The IFJ is supporting the RUJ in its plan to fight the sale of the building in property court.

Click here for a letter that you can modify and send from your own organization: http://www.ifj.org/docs/Russia270208Sample.doc

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

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