Government efforts to take control of the media and curb press freedom were accompanied in 2002 by imprisonment, new restrictive laws, huge fines threatening the survival of newspapers, arbitrary closures, searches and seizure of just-printed newspapers. The targets were media and journalists who were too independent or critical of the authorities.

The trend towards media repression was highlighted during the kidnapping of 700 Moscow theatregoers by Chechen rebels between 23 and 26 October. Several Russian and foreign media were censored in their coverage of the drama and the Duma (parliament) passed an anti-terrorist law allowing prosecution of any journalist reporting on terrorism or the war in Chechnya. President Putin's last-minute veto did not convince human rights organisations, which have long complained about the impossibility of reporting freely on the war and on anything to do with it.

Military journalist Grigory Pasko remained in prison for high treason on account of his ecological reporting despite an international campaign for his release.

The government policy of gaining control of the major national media continued, with a threat to the independence of Ekho Moskvy and an enforced alliance of TV6 journalists with Putin associates.

Once again, more journalists were murdered in Russia in 2002 while doing their job than in any other European country. Three were killed, almost certainly because of what they were reporting on (corruption and ecological problems), without any proper enquiry into their deaths. Four other died in accidents or covering the war in Chechnya. And in the provinces, far from the spotlight, dozens of journalists were attacked, harassed and prosecuted by regional authorities and local officials.

10 journalists killed

Seven journalists were killed in 2002 either because of their work or while doing their job.

Natalia Skryl, correspondent of the newspaper Nashe Vremya, in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, died in hospital on 8 March soon after ambulance workers found her lying in the street unconscious with head injuries near her parents' home in Taganrog. Her money had not been stolen. The paper's editor, Vera Uzhanskaya, said she had been reporting on a metals factory in Taganrog and the building of a chemical plant (Metanol) on the shore of the Azov Sea and had criticised the industrialists for using coal.

She was also investigating the financial dealings of Moscow investors and was working on the problems journalists have getting access to information. The prosecutor's office in Taganrog initially thought her death may have been to do with her journalistic work, but this theory was dropped on 25 July. The enquiry was closed on 11 September without the killers being identified.

The body of Sergei Kalinovsky, editor of the daily Moskovky Komsomolets Smolensk and presenter of a news programme on SCS TV and a political programme on a local radio station, was found in a suburb of Smolensk on 1 April. He had vanished after leaving his home on 14 December 2001. His apartment had been burned in March that year and he thought it was because of his political and crime reporting, which included disputes between organised crime, the local prosecutor's office and the police. At the end of the year, a police enquiry was still going on.

Igor Gareyev, a radio operator with Krasnoyarsk Stata TV, Natalia Pivovarova, correspondent for the TV station 7 Chanal, and Konstantin Stepanov, correspondent of the daily Segonyashnya Gazeta, were killed on 28 April with Krasnoyarsk governor Gen. Alexander Lebed in a helicopter crash near the Krasnodar town of Yermakovsk. The pilots knew before takeoff that the weather was bad and the co-pilot was not very experienced, but by the end of the year, the enquiry had not established if it was an accident or an attempt to kill Lebed.

Valery Ivanov, editor and publisher of the weekly Toliatinskoye obosrenye and owner of Lada TV, was shot dead in front of his home in the Samara region town of Toliatti on 29 April. He had been investigating corruption and gang wars to control the local AvtoVAZ vehicle factory. He had already been threatened several times. He and his associates often asked for police protection but did not get any. He was a member of the local parliament and his paper had actively taken part in the election campaign for the town council. The prosecutor-general sent his deputy, Vladimir Kolesnikov, to the town on 17 May. Samara regional prosecutor Alexander Efremov said 11 regional, city and district detectives were working on the case and they thought he may have been killed because of his campaign against crime and corruption in the town and at the vehicle factory or because of his work as a member of parliament. Nobody had been arrested by the end of the year.

British freelance cameraman Roderick Scott was killed in Ingushetia (Caucasus) on 26 September in shooting between Chechen rebels and Russian troops. His body was found among those of rebels killed in the village of Galashki. He had been following a group of rebels through the Pankisi Gorges on their way to Chechnya. The Ingushetian authorities refused to bury him, saying he was one of the "terrorists." Scott had reported in Chechnya as a freelance for several years, working regularly for the Frontline TV agency.

Three other journalists were killed during the year, but it was not clear if their deaths were because of their work.

Firat Valeyev, editor of Vechernu Neftekamsk, the only opposition paper in the republic of Bashkiria (east of the Volga), died on 20 July from serious injuries received when his car smashed into a lorry. He had been regularly threatened and his colleagues did not rule out a contract killing. The paper, published outside the republic for the previous seven years, had often strongly criticised Bashkirian President Murtaza Rakhimov and denounced government corruption.

Nikolai Vasilyev of Sovestkaya Chuvashya and deputy editor of Vesti Chuvashye, two papers in the republic of Chuvashia (east of Moscow) was found dead near his home on 18 August. He had been robbed and a friend who was with him was injured. Vasilyev had written about the region's political and social problems and colleagues said he may have been killed because of that.

The body of Leonid Kuznetsov, editor of the local paper Mecherskaya nov, in Mechersk, was found in the road in the central Russian town of Kasimov on 4 September. Detectives said he may have been hit by a vehicle. The paper, which he ran with his own money and reader donations, angered local authorities with its strong criticism of them.

New information on journalists killed before 2002

Six men were cleared by the Moscow military court on 26 June 2002 of murdering Dmitri Kholodov, of the daily paper Moskovsky Komsomolets, killed in October 1994 in the explosion of a suitcase supposedly containing official documents. He had been investigating army corruption. His editor had immediately accused counter-espionage services and the then defence minister Gen. Pavel Grachev.

The trial opened in November 2000 and on 7 June 2002 prison terms of between nine and 15 years were demanded for the accused, who were the ex-intelligence chief of airborne troops Col. Pavel Popovskikh, parachute commander Vladimir Morosov and two of his aides, Alexander Soroka and Konstantin Mirzayants, the deputy head of a bodyguard agency, Alexander Kapuntsov, and a former army officer turned businessman, Konstantin Barkovsky. The prosecutor-general's office objected on 27 June to their acquittal and prosecutor Irina Aleshina said she had been threatened during the enquiry and forced to hire a bodyguard. She said she had also been offered a bribe to drop the case.

Yuri Korolev, head of the interior ministry's police criminal investigations department, announced on 22 February that the presumed killer in 1993 of the director-general of the TV station ORT, Vladimir Listyev, had been identified and a federal and international warrant issued for his arrest. He said the suspects in the killing lived abroad.

Three medias collaborators killed

Alexander Plotnikov, owner of the Tumen (Siberia) regional daily Gostini dvor, was shot dead on 20 May 2002 in what detectives said was a contract killing linked to a financial dispute at the paper. Shortly beforehand, the other owners had switched all the paper's shares into their own bank accounts and started proceedings to wind up the paper. Plotnikov had won a court decision against them. The other owners had barred him from entering their offices and on the day he was killed he was going to make another attempt to do so.

The body of Svetlana Makarenko, advertising manager of the newspaper Volnaya Kuban, was found near her home on 18 January. Police were looking at several possibilities, including links with her work, though no evidence had been found of this by the end of the year.

Konstantin Pogodin, advertising manager of the weekly Novoye delo, was found stabbed to death in an apartment in Nizhni Novgorod (western Russia) on 4 March. Police did not rule out a link with his work, but had found no evidence of this by the end of the year.

Two journalists disappear

The Chechnya prosecutor's office opened an enquiry on 26 February 2002 into the disappearance of Iles Magamedov, head of the privately-owned TV station Grozny, who was last seen four days earlier. He had been a close associate of the head of the pro-Russian administration in Chechnya, Akhmad Kadirov.

Khanpashi Terkibayev, of Chechnya Television, vanished in early March after being arrested by pro-Russian Chechen militiamen at his home in the village of Mesker-Urt, in the Shali region. He was well-known and before the war and until two years previously he had worked with the TV station of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

New information about a journalist who disappeared before 2002

The Moscow general-prosecutor's office agreed on 17 May 2002 to conduct a new enquiry into the disappearance in Kurgan on 17 May 2001 of Vladimir Kirsanov, editor of the privately-owned paper Kurganskye Vesti. An investigation in February 2002 did not find his body or establish how he vanished. Kirsanov publicly backed a candidate for provincial governor at regional parliamentary elections in December 2000. The new enquiry had not been completed by the end of the 2002.

A journalist imprisoned

Grigory Pasko, a Vladivostok journalist for the Russian navy newspaper Boevaya Vakhta until 1997, remained in prison. On 16 January 2002, he refused an offer of a presidential pardon, saying he wanted to be proved innocent in court. He was sentenced on 25 December 2001 to four years imprisonment for "high treason," which was confirmed on appeal on 25 June 2002 by the Russian supreme court's military division, even though the same court had said in February there was "no legal basis" for his conviction. Oleg Mironov, Russia's ombudsman, told the supreme court in August 2002 that Pasko's guilt had not been proved during his trial.

After being held without trial for nearly 20 months between 1997 and 1999, Pasko was convicted for writing a hundred or so articles about pollution caused by the virtual abandonment (with the complicity of the FSB – ex-KGB) of old Russian nuclear submarines and for making public film of liquid radioactive waste being dumped by the Russian fleet into the Sea of Japan. The pictures were shown on the Japanese TV station NHK and provoked strong international reaction. He was transferred on 10 September 2002 to a prison camp near Ussuriysk after spending nearly 10 months in a remote cell in prison in Vladivostok, where he worked in a carpentry shop six days a week and was only allowed one family visit every three months.

He was nominated for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize and on 10 December was awarded the Reporters Without Borders / Fondation de France Prize. On 24 December, an appeal on his behalf was filed with the European Court of Human Rights. At the same time, the president of the Russian supreme court declined to review his case. Since his arrest, legal officials have yielded to pressure from high-level political circles.

14 journalists arrested

Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter with the daily Novaya Gazeta, was arrested on 9 February 2002 by Russian soldiers in the southern Chechnya region of Shatoy for "infringing rules for journalists." Journalists have been banned since July 2001 from travelling in Chechnya without an interior ministry escort. Politkovskaya managed to escape after being taken to a local army base for deportation.

Alexei Malkov, of the programme "Criminal" on the station NTV, and cameraman Dobriana Morgachev were briefly detained by police at Moscow's Kazan railway station on 15 March while doing a report on a campaign against organised crime. They reportedly did not have proper permission to do the report.

Timur Doktorov, correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda – Krasnoyarsk, and Sergei Kamskov, of the news agency Press-line, were arrested and held for an hour on 20 March at the residence of provincial governor Alexander Lebed near Krasnoyarsk, where they had gone to report on preparations for a visit by President Vladimir Putin.

Natalia Preobrazhenskaya, photographer with the daily Nesavisimaya gazeta, was arrested by police in Moscow's Red Square on 25 April while covering a demonstration by ecologists. Her press card and film were confiscated.

Irina Osipova, of the local TV station Studio 41, and her cameraman Yevgeny Lapidus were arrested and held for five hours on 3 August while covering a protest by skinheads in front of the US consulate in Yekaterinburg. Police hit Osipova, confiscated the mobile phones of the two journalists and said filming was forbidden in front of the consulate.

Ruben Digilio and Claudio Savoia, of the Argentine daily Clarin, were arrested on 14 August by the Tesha river in the Chelyabinsk region, along with their interpreter and a leader of the Tesha ecological organisation, Gosman Kabirov, and held for several hours. They were in the village of Muslumovo, well-known for the environmental damage done to it by the dumping of radioactive waste in the river by the Mayak chemical firm.

Nariman Mehdiyev, of the Azerbaijani TV station Azerbaijani Lider, was arrested by security officials on 26 October while reporting near the Moscow theatre where 700people were being held hostage by Chechen rebels. He was held for seven hours on suspicion of having links with the rebels because of his Caucasus region features.

A team from the TV station AS Baikal was arrested on 28 November in Irkutsk while doing a story at police premises. Reporter Alexander Matryonin and cameraman Yevgeny Alkov were held for six hours and their camera damaged, despite having official permission to do the report.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent in Nazran (Ingushetia), Ali Astamirov, and two members of his family were arrested on 17 December in front of their home and interrogated for two hours at a police station. This was officially to see if he was involved in a shootout earlier in the day but Astamirov, whose activities were being closely monitored by the FSB secret police, said it may have been an attempt to intimidate him.

18 journalists physically attacked

Oleg Gavrilov, editor of the government paper Tuvinskaya pravda in the southern Siberian republic of Tuva, was beaten by thugs on 13 January 2002 who told him to stop writing in the paper. He said the attack was because of his articles about candidates in the republic's presidential election due in March.

Sergei Leibgrad, local editor in the Volga city of Samara of the Ekho Moskvy radio station and editor of a weekly political satire programme called "Metabola" on the privately-owned local TV station Terra, was beaten in front of his home on 5 February by thugs who stole papers from him. He had strongly criticised Samara mayor Georgy Limanski and an ultra-nationalist former local member of parliament, Albert Makashov. The journalist said he had earlier received phone threats.

Marina Popova, of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets-Vladivostok, was beaten by thugs on 28 February, a few days after publishing an article about prostitution in the region and reporting links between criminals and a police official. Popova received death threats from the defendants during the trial connected with what she wrote.

Gunmen fired on 27 March at the car of Alikhan Gulyev, correspondent of the Ingushetia Republic TV station in front of the Ingushetia supreme court building. The court was due that day to hear a complaint by the journalist against former interior minister Khamsat Gutseryev for violating the electoral law.

Igor Rodyonov, editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets v Altai, was threatened on 10 April by two knife-wielding men as he was going to his office. He was due to meet the local prosecutor to get material for an article and had received threats a month earlier.

Yan Svider, of the opposition paper Vozrozhdenye, was beaten up by thugs on 12April in the entrance to his apartment building in Cherkesk, in the republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia. He was hospitalised with multiple fractures. He was well-known for his criticism of the republic's president and government.

Ravil Rostyamov, head of the privately-owned Tatar radio station Dulkin, was beaten by thugs on 27 May in front of the press ministry in Moscow, where he had gone to attend a trial in which the Tatarstan press ministry was accused of attributing the station's frequency to another station. He was hospitalised.

During the public showing of a World Cup football match between Russia and Japan on 9 June in a square near the Kremlin, photographers Vladimir Gerdo, of the daily Vechernyaya Moskva, Sergei Shirikov, of the EPA agency, and Sergei Ponomarev, of the daily Kommersant, were beaten by some of the audience, who also set fire to a vehicles belonging to the TV station VGTRK.

German Galkin, deputy editor of the newspaper Vecherni Cheliabinsk and leader of the local branch of the Liberal Russia opposition party, was attacked and slightly injured in front of his home in Cheliabinsk (near the Kazakhstan border) on 14 June. He was well-known for his criticism of the local authorities and regional governor Piotr Sumin.

Anna Veselova (journalist) and Sergei Krasnov (cameraman) of the TV station TNT, were attacked on 18 August and prevented from filming at a nursing home in Nizhni Novgorod where a member of the local parliament, Mikhail Dikoy, had set up his election headquarters. The cameraman was beaten by Dikoy's aides and hospitalised.

Lechi Saligov, editor of the Chechen newspaper Justice and stand-in for member of parliament Viktor Cherepkov, was beaten by two thugs on 20 August, possibly because of an article he wrote criticising a leader of the Chechen diaspora in Moscow. He had been threatened soon after the report appeared.

The offices of the weekly Lyubimy Gorod, in the centre of Penza, were attacked on 11 September and editor Anton Sharonov was hit in the face by two men who had asked to see him. Five of his colleagues were also hit. Sharonov said the attack was because of reports in the paper about corruption.

Alexander Kizlov, former correspondent of the Moscow daily Izvestia and founder of several opposition papers in the Penza region (south of Moscow) was beaten up outside his home on 25 September. He was taken to hospital with concussion, facial injuries and a broken leg. Kizlov is a prominent regional figure and head of the Rossia civil society group that backed several candidates for governor. The attack may have been because of his former work as a journalist or because of his political activities.

Tatiana Kukhalskaya, correspondent of Pskovski rubezh in Pskov, was attacked by a thug on 30 September while on her way to meet a woman who had promised her information for a report she was doing about Yevgeny Likhatan, vice-president of the town council in charge of supply contracts. Three days before, she had been threatened and hit by police at the interior ministry, where she had gone as part of her investigation. A senior police official threatened her in a bid to get her to reveal her sources.

Oleg Chuguyev, editor of the local daily Molodoy Dalnevostochnik, and his wife Irina Polnikova, a journalist on the paper, were beaten up by masked men in front of their home on 21 December. The attackers fled without stealing anything and the two victims were hospitalised with serious injuries. The paper had frequently denounced criminal groups and was also involved in a lawsuit with a group of skinheads. Police opened an enquiry.

Two journalists threatened

Sergei Solovkin, correspondent for the twice-weekly paper Novaya Gazeta in the southern city of Sochi, which focuses on corruption in the Krasnodar region, escaped an attempt to shoot him in the street on 11 March 2002. The hired killer was arrested and jailed. The masterminds were not identified. Solovkin went into temporary exile in Germany.

Tatiana Markevich, wife of journalist Edvard Markevich, who was murdered on 18 September 2001, and editor of Novy Reft, told a press conference Yekaterinburg (near the Kazakhstan border) on 15 October that she had been threatened several times and forced to close the paper and leave her home in Reftinsky. Thugs tried to set fire to the door of her apartment on 9October and broke a window.

Pressure and obstruction

The authorities in the small Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria prevented the appearance in January 2002 of the independent opposition weekly Adige Heku during the presidential election campaign after it ran articles mentioning opposition candidates and saying the elections were illegal. Journalists, as well as the landlords of newspaper offices, were routinely threatened. The paper is barred from the official newspaper distribution network and its print-run regularly seized. Editor Valery Hataschukov was picked up for questioning several times by police who wanted to know who funded the paper.

The printing works in Zelenodolsk, in Tatarstan, refused in January to print the newspaper Dobry Sosiedi, in the Volga republic of Mari-el, which had been banned in March 2001, after the presidents of the Volga republics (Tatarstan, Chuvashia, Mordovia, Kalmukia and Mari-el) informally agreed to ban all opposition newspapers.

An official of Russia's Far East region announced on 11 January the setting up of an information security commission to prevent publication of state secrets or material "harmful to Russia." The commission comprised experts and officials of the secret services and the phone-tapping and government communications services.

The Moscow supreme arbitration court confirmed on 11 January a liquidation order against TV6, the country's last nationwide independent TV station. The state oil firm Lukoil-Garant, with a 15 per cent share in the station through its pensions fund, had filed a complaint in September 2001 for "bad management." The station, whose main shareholder was businessman Boris Berezovsky, had in May 2001 hired journalists forced out of the opposition station NTV when it was taken over by the state gas company Gazprom at the instigation of the government. TV6 had been very critical of the government.

The information ministry cancelled its licence on 22 January and the station went off the air. The station appealed against the cancellation but was turned down on 28February. Its journalists set up a new company on 4 March, which placed a bid for the old frequency but abandoned it on 7March in favour of the "Mediasocium" project of former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and the head of the Employers' Union, Arkady Volsky, both of them close to President Putin. The journalists recovered the TV6 broadcasting licence on 27 March.

On 12 April, MNVK, Berezovsky's firm that formerly owned the station, filed a challenge to the break-up of the station before the European Court of Human Rights. On 29 May, a court ordered the station to resume broadcasting and on 1 June, under the new name of TVS, began doing so with the old team of journalists and with Yevgeny Kiselev as editor. MNVK said on 4June it had appealed against the reassigning of its frequency and in mid-July, a Moscow arbitration court ruled the closure of TV6 was illegal.

Information minister Mikhail Lessin won a slander suit on 14 January against Igor Malashenko, deputy director of Media-MOST, for saying in a September 2000 programme that Lessin had offered a deal to Media-MOST director Vladimir Gusinsky under which he would be released from prison in exchange for handing over control of NTV. The court ordered Malashenko to deny this in on the air.

President Putin rejected an amendment to the media law on 30 January that would have allowed non-residents in Russia to own TV stations. The 6 July 2001 law, banning ownership by foreigners or people with double nationality, remained in force.

In early February, Alexei Venediktov, editor de Ekho Moskvy, the only independent radio station critical of the government and with a major audience, said the state firm Gazprom, which won a half share of the station in April 2001, planned to change the station's management and undermine its editorial independence. Shortly before, the station had hired journalists from the closed opposition station TV6. The journalists, with a one-third share in the radio, were not able to buy some of Gazprom's shares.

Editor Venediktov announced at a special shareholders' meeting on 26 February to appoint a new management that he would resign on 31 May and give up trying to defend the station's independence in the face of its "nationalisation."

The journalists scored a victory on 29June with the election of a new board that promised to ensure the station's independence and keep Venediktov as editor until January 2003, when Gazprom said it wanted to sell off its media interests. The journalists also won a federal tender for frequencies on 27 February, allowing them to set up a new radio station, Arsenal, which began broadcasting in the Moscow region on 1 November with a staff of 60 Ekho Moskvy journalists. Venediktov kept 18 per cent of the shares in Ekho Moskvy.

Grigory Nazarenko, editor of the weekly Delovoy Sayanogorsk, was detained for several hours on 20 February by security guards at an aluminium factory in Sayanogorsk (in Khakassia, near Altai) while he was photographing the buildings. The guards destroyed his film.

Nina Shafutdinova of Permskye novosti, was summoned on 20 February to the military prosecutor's office at the Perm garrison, following an article she wrote in the paper on 1 February about the suicide of a young soldier after brutal initiation rites.

The Caucasus department of the FSB secret police threatened Anna Politkovskaya, of the daily Novaya Gazeta, on 21February that it would ask the information ministry to withhold future accreditation for her to report in Chechnya. The paper said on 28 February it would file a complaint against the FSB.

A Kirov court imposed a small fine on the newspaper Viatsky nabludatel on 27 February for offending regional governor Vladimir Sergeyenkov by making fun of him in connection with an event he had announced.

Arsonists burned down the apartment of Natalia Kolokolchikova, deputy editor of the opposition paper Stolitsa, in Petrasovodsk (Karelia), on 2 March. The paper was targeted severaltimesintherun-up to regional elections.

On 15 March, arsonists burned the door of the apartment of Vladimir Maltzev, editor of Dobry Sosiedi, in Yoshkar-Ola, capital of the north Volga republic of Mari-el. The paper had been given a small fine for libelling President Leonid Markelov.

The Murmansk regional commission ordered a halt to the printing of the newspaper Nord-Vest kourier in the middle of the print run on 20 March because of an article saying a member of the local parliament, Sergei Gabrielin, of buying voters on the eve of the 24 March elections.

The Saratov regional government announced new rules for media accreditation on 25 March to eliminate media that had reported nothing about the government in the previous three months.

Screening of exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky's documentary "Attack on Russia" was banned in Severodvinsk, in the northwestern region of Arkangelsk on 27 March as "provocative." The film, made by French journalists, says terrorist attacks in 1999 that were held up as justification for Russian troops to return to Chechnya had been staged by the FSB secret police. On 10 March, customs officials at St. Petersburg airport had seized about 100 copies of the film from member of parliament Yuli Rybakov, saying he had not completed the proper paperwork. Rybakov had planned to give them to fellow parliamentarians.

A legal investigation was begun on 30March into Igor Zotov, editor of the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, owned by businessman Boris Berezovsky, for libelling Moscow judge Olga Yegorova, on 21 November 2001. By the end of the year, the suit had not been followed up.

A small packet of TNT exploded during the night of 13-14 April near the apartment door of Anatoly Yasenin, editor of the daily Vecherny Novocherkask, which was having a dispute with the Novocherkask mayor, Anatoly Volkov, and being sued by the authorities. A week earlier, the paper had reported that the local prosecutor's office was looking into irregularities in the privatisation of some municipal services.

Yana Porubova, of the paper DSP (Delovoye St. Petersburg), in Yekaterinburg, was sentenced to a year and a half in prison on 22 April for libel (article 129 of the criminal code) in an article about ties between the head of the local government, Alexei Vorobyev, and Sen. Sergei Kapchuk. The journalist was immediately amnestied.

The popular programme "I believe it" on the government TV station in the republic of Mari-el was permanently banned on 23 April by the station's editors who said one of its participants, Anatoly Alexandrov, had expressed an opinion about the setting up of a pro-government party, the Mari-el National Congress.

Andrei Antonov, correspondent of the Prima news agency, was expelled on 26 April from a Moscow courtroom where the trial was being held of ecologists and journalists arrested the day before in Red Square while marking the anniversary of the 1996 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. The agency's editor, Alexander Podrabinek, sent a protest letter to prosecutor-general Vladimir Ustinov on 6 May and called unsuccessfully for the judge in the case to be charged with preventing the journalist from doing his job (Article 144 of the criminal code).

Nikolai Donskov, editor of the St. Petersburg edition of the independent twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta, was summoned by the local prosecutor's office on 27 April for questioning. An investigation of the paper began on 19 March after it ran an article about the activities of the prosecutor and his deputy.

Ivan Gusev, of the opposition paper Stolitsa, in Petrasovodsk (Karelia), was ordered on 24 May to pay 15,000 rubles (450 euros) in damages plus 70,000 rubles (2,100 euros) in moral damages for a July 2001 article accusing Karelian supreme court president Boris Taratunin's lawyer son Roman of winning a case with the help of his father. The local prosecutor's office had seized Gusev's property on 4 January. The sentence was quashed on 5 September.

Two armed men broke into the apartment where Nur Dolay, of the French weekly Courrier international, was staying in Nalchik (Kabardino-Balkaria) during the night of 29-30 May, tied her up and gagged her and searched her belongings looking for cassettes of a report she had just done about an opponent of President Valery Kokov. She was freed next morning by a visitor.

Bailiffs arrived on 7 June to do a property inventory at the offices of the twice-weekly independent paper Novaya Gazeta after an appeals court had confirmed an earlier order to pay 15 million rubles (550,000 euros) in damages to Mezhprom Bank for allegedly causing its bankruptcy by saying in a December 2001 article that it was involved in money-laundering. The paper was also been ordered on 22 February to pay libel damages of 30 million rubles (1.1 million euros) to Alexander Chernov, chief judge in the southwestern city of Krasnodar, who it had accused of corruption. Both parties reached a settlement in late June, avoiding the paper's bankruptcy.

Legal action was started against Dina Oyun, editor of the Internet website Tuva-online, after she denounced electoral fraud in the Siberian republic of Tuva at a Kremlin press conference on 24 June. Election commission chairman Sholban Mongush said she should be punished if her accusations proved false.

In early July, the supreme court reduced a prison sentence imposed on 20 December 2001 on Olga Kitova, correspondent of the Moscow daily Obshchaya Gazeta and the Belgorod regional daily Belgorodskaya Pravda, for writing about a rape case in the Belgorod paper. Kitova, who is also a member of the regional parliament, was arrested on 21 March 2001 for not having answered a summons by the prosecutor's office accusing her of defamation and interfering in a court case. The regional parliament lifted her immunity on 16 July and on 20 December she was given a suspended prison sentence of two and a half years. This was cut by five months in July 2002. Kitova, who said she had been threatened by local court officials, can no longer work as a journalist in Belgorod.

Police seized 100,000 copies of the weekly Rabochaya gazeta on 4 July because it contained an article by journalist German Galkin criticising local governor Konstantin Bochkarev. The prosecutor-general's office admitted on 5 November that the seizure had been illegal.

The daily paper Molodoy kommunar was closed on 5 July by health authorities in the southern town of Voronezh a few days after the mayor, who it had criticised, said he wanted to close it. It did not reopen.

The same day, the mayor of Strelna, near St. Petersburg, ordered the seizure of all the furniture and computers of the newspaper Strelna, reportedly because he was annoyed the paper was becoming financially independent. The paper did not reappear.

Legal action was started on 7 July against Olga Cherubina, editor of Naryana Vinder, published by the Nenets regional government (in the Far North) for "abusing her position." She had been sacked a week earlier after a freelance working for the paper, Alexei Vasilivetsky, had asked President Putin a question at a 24 June Kremlin press conference about corruption by regional governor Vladimir Butov. Putin had promised to act. Cherubina won the court case on 24 July but did not get her job back.

The politics programme of Valentina Busmakova on the Nizhni Novgorod regional station NNTV was banned 15 times between 4 June and 25 September. It was forbidden on 4 July because former city mayor Andrei Klimentiev appeared in it. On 17 July, the ban appeared to be because it featured member of parliament Dmitri Savelyev. On 9 August, it was banned apparently because it had an interview with the deputy mayor, Sergei Voronov, who strongly criticised the local governor.

Petrol bombs were hurled through the office windows of the opposition paper Stefanovsky Bulvar, in Syktyvar, capital of the northwestern republic of Komi, on 6 August, causing some damage. Editor Alexei Bushoyev said the attack was due to the paper's frequent criticism of the local authorities.

Russian soldiers in Chechnya confiscated the IDs and equipment of journalists from the public TV stations ORT and TV Tsenter for several hours on 16 August, saying they did not have the required army escort while questioning people fleeing the village of Shalazhi (in the southwestern region of Urus-Martan), where Russian troops were doing a sweep.

Intruders broke into the office of Yevgeny Kosub, head of the Vladivostok TV station RVK, during the night of 20-21 September and stole his laptop computer and various documents. He had received threats a month earlier.The station had been refused permission to cover President Putin's visit to the city during the summer and Kosub was several times "advised" to change the content of the station's programmes.

President Putin ended the special status of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE) on 4 October. His predecessor Boris Yeltsin had on 27 August 1991 granted full broadcasting facilities to the station, which was jammed during the Soviet era. The start of broadcasts in the Chechen language on 2 April provoked a strong reaction from Moscow, which complained to the US embassy that it was a move "not in line with the common fight against terrorism."

Julie Shelamidova, editor of Simbirsk vesti, was sentenced to a year in prison at hard labour and heavily fined on 8 October for libelling Ulyanovsk (Volga) regional governor Vladimir Shamanov in an article criticising his aides. She did not serve the sentence but her salary was cut.

On 9 October, the Periodika Mari-el printing works broke off its contract to print the weekly Yoshkar-Ola, founded by the Mari-el republic government. The paper had sent an open letter to regional governor Sergei Kirienko on 26 September about freedom of expression problems.

A federal government decision on 11October further reduced media coverage of the war in Chechnya by banning foreigners without special permission from a list of areas, organisations and buildings, including "places where military operations are going on." It did not say how such permission could be obtained or how long it be valid.

The mayor of the Sludyansk region around the Siberian city of Irkutsk on 18 October banned publication of that day's issue of the municipal paper Slavnoye more because of an article in it criticising him. He also asked to see articles before they appeared. Earlier, editor Irina Molshanova had made the paper independent of local authority funding.

The federal information ministry ordered the closure of the Moscow regional TV station Moskovia on 25 October for allegedly violating the anti-terrorist and press laws. The station had broadcast remarks that people from the Caucasus "all look the same to Muscovites" and that nobody saw "any difference between the terrorists and market people from the Caucasus." The station was allowed to reopen the next day after the management promised in writing to closely monitor programme content.

On 26 October, the information ministry threatened to shut down the Internet website of the radio station Ekho Moskvy for broadcasting an interview with Chechen commandos who had seized more than 700 people in a Moscow theatre. The article was removed from the site and the threat not carried out. But editor Alexei Venediktov was asked on 26 November to give a tape of an interview with one of the kidnappers to the prosecutor-general's office.

During the 23-26 October kidnapping, information minister Mikhail Lessin banned the station NTV from broadcasting an interview with one of the kidnappers.

After the Czech public TV station Ceska Televize broadcast a documentary on 31 October about the siege of Grozny (Chechnya) by Russian troops, the federal foreign ministry accused the station of making propaganda for international terrorism.

The Russian parliament adopted on third reading on 1 November an amendment to the anti-terrorist law severely curbing press freedom and raising fears that the years-long censorship of the war in Chechnya would be stepped up. It banned the media from putting out news that "hinders an anti-terrorist operation" or was "opposition propaganda against an operation or an attempt to justify such opposition." Its vague terms allowed the authorities to prosecute any journalist or media reporting on terrorism or Chechnya. President Putin vetoed the amendment on 25 November after strong protests from human rights organisations and asked the two houses of parliament to set up a joint committee to revise it.

FSB secret police agents raided the offices of the weekly Versiya on 1 November and seized the paper's Internet equipment, officially because of an article published in May. The paper's internal security affairs editor, Andrei Soldatov, said it was really because of a 4 November report about the role of the special forces in ending the Chechen hostages crisis in Moscow. The FSB questioned Soldatov on 11 November, editor Rustam Arifdzhanov on the 12th and a technician on the 14th.

The Internet news website was shut down by the FSB on 5 November. In early December, Dmitri Shepshugov, head of the interior ministry's anti-cybercrime division, said all websites linked to the Chechen rebels had been identified and many closed down.

On 12 November, a Moscow court threw out a complaint by a Russian student against Klaus-Helge Donath, correspondent of the German daily Tageszeitung, for putting out inaccurate news and insulting President Putin. The student, Mikhail Anishchenko, from Cheliabinsk (Urals), objected to a 7 May 2001 article criticising a poem he had written in praise of the president. He demanded that the journalist's accreditation be withdrawn and that he be deported.

The Russian embassy in Germany complained on 13 November to Fritz Pleitgen, head of the German public TV station ARD, calling German media coverage of the Moscow hostage-taking, especially by ARD, "shocking, totally unacceptable and disgraceful for a public institution." It said the "biased editing" and "choice of disgusting words" in the reports raised doubts about Moscow's determination to reach a political solution to the conflict. The letter suggested that the Russian authorities might end their cooperation with ARD.

Irek Murtazin, head of the TV station Tatarstan, owned by the Tatar government, resigned on 14 November under pressure from Moscow. At the start of the Moscow hostage crisis on 24 October, the station put out a programme whose participants called for an end to the war in Chechnya and criticised government policy in Tatarstan.

The local prosecutor's office in the southwestern city of Voronezh sued the editor of Voronezhski kourrier, Dmitri Dyakov, on 14 November for libelling the city's mayor, Alexander Kovalev, who it regularly criticises, and the paper's offices were searched. The mayor had blocked half the paper's print-run on 28 September but cutting off the electricity.

Russian security agents at an airport in Ingushetia seized four cassettes of film about Chechnya from Hans-Wilhelm Steinfeld, Moscow correspondent of the Norwegian public TV station NRK, on 20November. The film was later returned to him but two of the tapes had been partly erased.

On 21 November, police seized the property of the daily Segodnyashaya Gazeta, in Krasnoyarsk, including the computer of deputy editor Maxim Glasunov. The raid was part of legal action by former Kranoyarsk deputy governor Nikolai Ashlapov, who accused the paper of libelling him in articles in the spring about his business activities.

The prosecutor's office in Cheliabinsk began legal action against German Galkin, deputy editor of Vecherny Cheliabinsk, on 20 December for libelling governor Piotr Sumin in articles in Rabochaya gazeta, that Galkin had helped to fund. The journalist was put under house arrest and forced to promise in writing not to reveal details of the investigation.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.