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Criminal charges against former director of media organisation dropped

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

Russia: Criminal Charges Against Media NGO Leader Dropped

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the 27 May decision of Russia's Constitutional Court to uphold the appeal of a former NGO leader against criminal charges which were widely believed to be excessive.

Manana Aslamazyan, former director of the Educated Media Foundation, had been charged with smuggling after failing to declare an amount of money she brought into Russia in 2007 which slightly exceeded the legal limit. According to the decision of the Court, rather than the criminal charges under which Aslamazyan faced up to five years in prison, an administrative case will be opened with a maximum possible fine of 100 US dollars.

Following the charges, the Educated Media Foundation had its computer equipment seized and its bank accounts frozen as part of an investigation by tax police, and was forced as a result temporarily to suspend its activity. The foundation, which works on training of journalists and protection of media rights throughout Russia, was established with the support of US-based Internews Network and had received grants from the United States and other international donors.

ARTICLE 19 urges Russian authorities to work towards further improvements in interpretation of regulations on foreign funding of NGOs, and refrain from viewing foreign funding of NGOs as inherently suspicious.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

Updates the Aslamazyan case:

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