Posted: August 16, 2006
Police searched the offices of the independent weekly newspaper Orlovskiye Novosti in the western Russian city of Oryol. Five police officers, accompanied by two officials from the local Office of Taxation, stated that the newspaper had failed to pay taxes. “The chief editor, Andrei Kanatnikov, tried to show the police financial documents that proved the newspaper did pay taxes,” Orlovskiye Novosti’s co-founder and economic journalist Marina Ivashina told CPJ, “but they refused to accept them.”
The officers aggressively searched the premises, and of the seven, only one identified himself as A. Kulikov. According to the news Web site Regnum.ru, the police thoroughly searched staff work stations. Although they did not take the financial documents, they took the paper’s page layout for an upcoming issue from a staff member’s computer.
In an article published in Orlovskiye Novosti following the raid, Andrei Kanatnikov stated, “They [the police] did not explain what the basis of their search was.” When a staff photographer tried to take a picture of the police search, Kulikov twisted the journalist’s arm and ripped the camera out of his hand.
Aleksandr Yagodkin, regional correspondent of the Moscow-based independent weekly Novaya Gazeta, told CPJ that Orlovskiye Novosti is the only newspaper that constantly criticizes Oryol Regional Governor Yegor Stroyen and his circle. Yagodkin believes the raid was connected with local elections, to be held in 2007.
In January, Orlovskiye Novosti reported local group, Civil Control’s, decision to nominate candidates for local government. Civil Control aims to protect constitutional rights, calls for greater openness, and speaks out against corruption. According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a Moscow-based press freedom group, this was the “first ever attempt by civil society activists to claim a place at the helm.”
Following the report, harassment by local government officials and police hindered the publication of the newspaper. According to local news reports, governmental pressure placed on printing houses that produced Orlovskiye Novosti forced the paper to print outside of Oryol. Staff would not say on the record where they currently print for of fear of further harassment.
Journalists working for the paper have been threatened in the past. Orlovskiye Novosti staff told CPJ that local police threatened to hold one reporter for three days in June.