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Office search freezes "Soglasiye I Pravda" newspaper's operations

(GDF/IFEX) - Pyotr Lipatov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Soglasiye I Pravda" (SP) based in the town of Klin, in the Moscow Region, has sent the GDF a message saying that after a series of critical publications about local police commanders in November 2008, a group of OBEP (special police force against economic crime) officers arrived at the SP office in late December, with a warrant "to inspect the newspaper's financial, economic, business and trade performance".

The warrant was signed by district police chief V. Molodovsky, a central figure in those critical publications. Allegedly, the police had received information suggesting SP's involvement in some "illegal" activities. As it turned out later, the information had been reported by an orderly officer of the district police department.

The question arises as to how the orderly officer managed to collect evidence for an inspection of so large a scale, requiring verification of: the lawfulness of the newspaper's tenancy in its rented office; the validity of sanitary authorities' and the fire marshal's authorization certificates, as well as agreements on security services, garbage disposal, telephone communications, water supply, and the lease; licenses and permissions to engage in different kinds of activities; the newspaper's compliance with copyright and associated rights laws; the legality of the software currently in use; their accounting records, and so on.

The newspaper staff sees this inspection, launched in the absence of any information on the specific violations, as aimed at "identifying any breach of existing laws or regulations justifying a freeze on the newspaper's operation". And in fact this is exactly what happened after the visiting OBEP officers confiscated computers, information carriers and documents.

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