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IFJ Condemns Arrest of Russian Editor after Exposure of Police Corruption Sparks Raid

February 10, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the arrest of Valery Smetanin, Editor-in-chief and Galina Yablokova and her son Alexej Yablokov, two founders of the Ivanovo-Press weekly in central Russia over allegations of taking bribes to publish favourable articles.

The charges are scarcely credible, says the IFJ, given that the Ivanovo Press has ironically built its reputation on fierce criticism of the authorities and recently reported widespread corruption in the Ivanovo Police force.

"This grotesque prosecution appears to be aimed at silencing a critical voice," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It smacks of a determination to stifle dissent rather than a genuine interest in eradicating corruption."

The three were arrested and later released on bail following a raid by the OMON special police force on 26 January. If found guilty, could face up to four years in prison. The practice of receiving undeclared payments in return for favourable articles, sometimes known as Zakazukha, is widespread throughout Russian media and a corrupting influence on the journalism.

Article 204 of the Criminal Code prohibits "commercial graft by an organized group with preliminary agreement". This is the first case that has been brought against media in Russia.

The IFJ says the practice does need to be eradicated, but in this case there are serious doubts about the intention of the authorities.

"If Russian media are to rebuild trust with the public they need to clean up their act and put an end to accepting paid for articles," said White. "But a campaign against corruption must not provide a strategy for officials to intimidate independent journalists."

The IFJ says it will monitor the trial of the three journalists and the evidence marshaled against them.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: + 32 2 235 22 07

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