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Violations against media increase during elections

(GDF/IFEX) - Elections in Russia are traditionally accompanied by scandals. The latest election campaign was no exception, with media, too, suffering considerable damage ranging from threats to censorship attempts, to print run confiscation, to the seizure of a media office.

The URA.ru news agency, for one, has reported that in the town of Asbest, Sverdlovsk Region, unidentified persons stormed into the office of the radio station Rekord late on March 9, 2010 to drive all the staffers out into the street and lock themselves inside. As a result, old news roundups were put on the air, with all stories about self-nominated candidate Vladimir Susloparov, the then leader of the mayoral race, edited out. Earlier, radio station director Yevgeny Shabanov had received threatening phone calls from the city administration demanding that any materials concerning the self-appointed candidate be shelved. According to Susloparov's campaign headquarters, his video clip was also banned from being shown on local TV. Instead, video of administration officials attacking the self-nominated candidate were shown all day.

In Murmansk Region, the management of the local TV/radio company decided to switch off the city radio broadcasts in all municipalities where elections were underway. According to the newspaper "Nezavisimaya Gazeta", this was done to prevent Central Election Committee claims about messages candidates may have sent to electors on the eve of the election.

In Ryazan on March 12, an armed OMON (special task police force) unit visited the office of the newspaper "Vechernyaya Ryazan". According to staffer Natalia Bashlykova, the visitors drove out almost all the employees, searched the office and copied all the information from the newspaper's server. The incident may have been connected with the recent seizure of the print run of one issue of the paper that criticized the United Russia party. The regional election committee decided that the publication was unlawful because it engaged in "wrongful" canvassing.

Finally, in Maslyaninsky District, Novosibirsk Region, a canvasser distributing the newspaper "Moment Istiny" was detained and beaten. According to Ekho Moskvy radio, the young man was carrying copies of the paper along with leaflets urging people to vote for an opposition candidate, when a police patrol stopped him, beat him, and took him to the police station. He was then driven home to have his apartment searched and the undistributed copies of the newspaper confiscated.
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