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Newspaper comes under pressure after election of Communist Party mayor

(CJES/IFEX) - On 6 December 2011, CJES received a letter from Vitaly Shapran, editor of the Berdsk-based "Gorodskoi Vestnik" newspaper, in Novosibirsk region, in which he asked for help. In particular, the letter stated that pressure is being exerted on the paper, which is the only opposition newspaper in Berdsk. "They are waging a war against us," the editor said.

The election of a Communist Party representative as mayor of the city was followed by "a large-scale attack on civil liberties, from illegal registration denials . . . and the announced upcoming accreditation of the Berdsk media to preparations to introduce a requirement for passes to the city's administration facilities (a decision said to be connected to the threat of terrorism). The Communists needed the public when they were trying to gain power, but when they won they started shunning the public," the letter says.

"There have been anonymous calls threatening to cut off the editor's tongue. Direct threats were made in comments attached to articles posted on our sites (for example, "expect a bullet"). They have started removing our journalists from public events organized by the Communist administration. However, things became much worse when they started stealing our free newspapers from newsstands to prevent our readers from obtaining them. There is no doubt that all these things are the doings of the Berdsk administration, which is hysterically afraid of free speech," the letter said.

The paper's editor believes the persecution of "Gorodskoi Vestnik" constitutes a warning to all Berdsk media organizations and opposition activists.

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