Russian police search Novaya Gazeta newsroom, confiscate computers

New York, May 11, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that police in the southern Russian city of Samara have raided the local bureaus of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the independent news agency Regnum. Three journalists with other news organizations were also detained and interrogated, according to news reports. The police actions come one week before a demonstration planned by political opponents in Samara.

“We’re very troubled by these police actions, which appear timed to obstruct news coverage of a planned public demonstration,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “This harassment is preventing our colleagues from doing their jobs of informing the public, and it should stop at once.”

Several officers from the Samara Main Internal Affairs Directorate (GUVD) arrived at Novaya Gazeta’s Samara newsroom at noon today, seizing all of its computers and accusing the employees of “using counterfeit software,” the newspaper reported on its Web site. A few hours later, five more officers came to the newsroom and confiscated all of the bureau’s financial records, Novaya Gazeta Samara correspondent Darya Grigoryan reported. Police said they were checking into unspecified criminal violations, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Several independent news Web sites reported a similar seizure of computers at the Samara office of the independent news agency Regnum today.

On Thursday night, local press reports said, officers with the GUVD and the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime detained Pavel Sedakov, correspondent for the independent business daily Kommersant; Kseniya Rusyayeva, correspondent for Ren-TV; and Ren-TV camera operator Maksim Vnukov. The three were interviewing a local leader of the opposition coalition Other Russia, which has planned a “March of the Dissenters” on May 18 in Samara, news reports said.

Police interrogated Sedakov, Rusyayeva, and Vnukov for more than two hours, asking questions about Other Russia and its planned action in Samara. The journalists were later released, according to the local press.

Other Russia, led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov, has staged similar demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod. Each was met with large show of force by Russian police, who sought to block the gatherings.