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Newspaper harassed over critical article

(CJES/IFEX) - The editorial office of the newspaper "Moi Gorod-Kostroma", the only independent socio-political publication in Kostroma, was visited by a district police officer on 7 November 2011, who wanted to talk with the paper's editor about slander accusations that the regional security department has made against the newspaper. The accusations were made over an article criticizing the administration of the Kostroma regional security department.

"Judging by this complaint, the department disagrees with the author, who doubts the expediency of creating in the Kostroma region, which is not very populous, an additional authority whose analogues only exist in Moscow and St. Petersburg and which generally overlap with those of other authorities, including law enforcement agencies, and finds some of the department's initiatives, including the organization of public prayers in places where road accidents occur the most frequently, to be absurd. However, the author of the article has every right to express his opinion, which in this case is based on facts taken from official documents, including the provision of the Kostroma region's regional security department and reports by the region's top officials made in meetings with the governor. I am fully confident that if a criminal case is opened on the basis of this matter, it will never make it to court," Ruslan Tsaryov, editor-in-chief of "Moi Gorod-Kostroma", said.

The district police officer told the paper's editor that the department was acting on the orders of Kostroma Governor Igor Slyunyayev, who has received a copy of the publication. Klara Vorobyova, a representative of the department, confirmed this to the paper's general director Albert Stepantsev in a phone conversation.

On the same day, the paper received an inquiry from the Interior Ministry's department for the prevention of economic crimes for the Kostroma region, demanding the provision of some accounting documents. The ministry department said the inquiry is part of an investigation opened on the basis of a complaint against the paper. The paper is now working to determine whether the investigation is legal. However, there are reasons to assume that the true purpose of this investigation is to find out who finances the paper to put pressure on these individuals.

The pressure on opposition journalists, publishers and founders of media publications, disproportionate reactions to critical publications, and outright censorship have became commonplace in the Kostroma region since Slyunyayev was appointed governor. The pressure on the media has apparently intensified in the lead up to the elections.

In July 2011, the Kostroma region's printing house, which is directly dependent on the region's administration, refused to print the paper. The paper now comes out weekly and has a circulation of 15,000 copies (the paper is printed in Yaroslavl).

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