30 May 2008
IFJ Welcomes "Fresh Start" in Russia as Medvedev Opens Door to Media Dialogue
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed signs of a "fresh start'" in relations between the authorities and independent media in Russia after meetings between media leaders and President Medvedev and a court victory for a leading press freedom campaigner.
On Tuesday a Russian court ruled as unconstitutional criminal charges brought against Manana Aslamazyan, former head of the Russian-based Educated Media Foundation, the successor to Internews Russia, which organised extensive work in the country to assist and develop independent media outlets.
Last month the President of the Russian Union of Journalists Vsevelod Bogdanov held a meeting with the new President. His union, which has protested over violations of press rights, has been under official pressure during the past two years. This exchange led to a series of meetings with senior media leaders, which journalists' leaders hope is a sign of Kremlin doors opening to a new and constructive dialogue.
"This week's court victory adds to a mood of cautious optimism in some corners of journalism that the new President and Government are open to a fresh dialogue," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "If this is the case it is most welcome. We will support efforts to create better relations between independent journalism and media and the authorities."
The appeal in the country's constitutional court came after Aslamazyan, who is now living in France, had faced what observers had seen as trumped-up charges of smuggling. She had been stopped while entering the country in January 2007 with cash that just barely exceeded the legal limit without declaring it.
The police used this as grounds for searching the offices of Internews Russia and seizing its accounts. The NGO was forced to close in April 2007. The court ruled that someone would have to exceed the permitted amount by at least 250,000 Rubles (about 10,000 dollars) for a crime to be committed.
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide