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WAN-IFRA welcomes reopening of printing house

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) - Paris, France and Darmstadt, Germany, 7 June 2011 - The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have welcomed a Russian court decision to reopen a printing house in the Rostov region in the southwest of the country that had been closed last week in the latest attack on freedom of expression in the country.

WAN-IFRA and the WEF had written to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to condemn the closure of the printing house and printing presses operated by the privately owned weekly Krestyanin. The newspaper won a court hearing to reopen on Friday, 3 June, averting a financial crisis that would have threatened the paper's existence.

"We are delighted that Krestyanin has been allowed to reopen, but it never should have been closed in the first place," WAN-IFRA said in a statement. "We're convinced that international support played a role in the reversal, and we will continue to call on authorities to respect press freedom and stop their all-too-common attempts to silence critical voices."

A local court had suspended the publication for 90 days for alleged breaches of fire safety regulations, and initially refused to reopen the printing house, despite a certificate from the Fire Police confirming that all breaches of regulations had been rectified.

In a letter to President Medvedev, the global press organisations said: "We are seriously concerned that the closure of Krestyanin's printing house is politically motivated and part of a campaign by local officials to silence critical voices in the run-up to elections in December and next March. The closure was not the first act of intimidation."

A week before the suspension, a local official and a representative of the United Russia Party reportedly telephoned the printing house, suggesting that Krestyanin stop printing election campaign flyers for a Communist Party mayoral candidate. Under Russian law, a printing house is obliged to print campaign material for any candidate if requested to do so.

To read the full letter click here

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