IFJ Condemns “Bogus and Sinister” Intimidation as Russian Authorities Shut Down Journalists’ Centre in Moscow

The global leadership of the International Federation of Journalists today protested over this week’s closure by the Russian fire authorities of the House of Journalists, a popular meeting place for reporters in central Moscow.

The IFJ says the action is evidence of fresh intimidation of media and independent journalism by the Government of President Vladimir Putin in advance of Parliamentary elections in December.

“The tactics of using so-called violations of fire regulations to shut down this building are bogus and sinister,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It doesn’t fool anybody. This decision is a deliberate attempt to squeeze potentially troublesome journalists from meeting and from promoting free debate during the elections.”

The action of the fire authorities, which was carried out last Wednesday, and which means the Journalists’ House is closed for a minimum of three months, is seen as a fresh attack on the Russian Union of Journalists, the independent organisation that represents journalists across Russia. The union has been critical of the government’s treatment of media and earlier this year faced an attempt by the authorities to evict them from their headquarters.

The IFJ Executive Committee, meeting in Brussels today, adopted a resolution condemning the action of the authorities and pledging to support the Russian Union.

The Russian Union of Journalists, which administers the Journalists’ House, says that complaints about violations of fire regulations a year ago had been largely dealt with and any remaining difficulties were no greater than the conditions found in the majority of other buildings and institutions operating in Moscow.

“It is beyond credibility that at this moment, for the first time in its 87-year history, the Journalists’ House should be closed on the basis of violations of fire regulations,” said White. “This is a warning to journalists and to the Russian Union in particular to toe the line in the run-up to elections both for Parliament and for President early next year.”

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide