Authorities use new restrictive practices against NGO and media

29-30 August the Foundation to Support Tolerance and the Novaya Gazeta office in Nizhny Novgorod were taken under illegal check by local lawmen. As a result, they seized computers from the mentioned organizations on the pretext of using unlicensed software. The human rights defenders strongly protest against these actions and think that authorities are trying to use any method to paralyze the work of non-governmental organizations and media.

Written by HRH Moscow/Inna Komar

Computers seizure in Nizhny Novgorod
Dmitrievskiy29 August, the office of the Foundation to Support Tolerance was visited by police officers. They carried an order to check their office and seize all computers in order to investigate possible “extremist” content. Besides the intimidating character of this action, it effectively disables the work of the NGO. The Foundation was established in March 2007, with a board that partly overlaps with the one of the former Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS). It was established on behalf of victims of human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. Applying the new NGO law of the Russian Federation, the RCFS was forcibly dissolved in January 2007 after the Russian Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Regional Court of Nizhny Novgorod ordering the closure of the RCFS. It was closed on a reason that its Director, Stas Dmitrievsky (right), convicted for extremism, refused to resign. Now Mr. Dmitrievsky is staff-member of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance. He faces a real risk to be imprisoned, for earlier this month, on 17 August, he was sentenced to four-year probation term. If he commits two administrative offences in the same year, this would lead to the execution of the two-year sentence he received. This clearly is another step in the continuation of the harassment of the banned RCFS and its former director.

NG_logoThe similar situation happened 30 August with the Nizhny Novgorod office of Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s key independent newspaper. The office was searched by police and had six computers seized. The journalists weren’t even given an opportunity to copy their materials. As a result of this police operation, their work was stalled. The official reason for the seizure of the equipment from the office of Novaya Gazeta is the same – the use of unlicensed software.

Human rights defenders address to the Russian society
5 September the human rights activists from the Movement “For Human Rights” (Lev Ponomarev), Liberty of Conscience Defense Committee (Gleb Yakunin), Youth Human Rights Movement (Yulia Bashinova) and the Director of Sakharov`s Public Centre (Yuriy Samodurov) appealed to the Russian society. They pointed out new original method of fight of Nizhny Novgorod region lawmen with NGOs. The point is that 29 and 30 August two regional organizations were taken under the check of their activity. Now the officers prefer to seize computers from organizations under the pretext of having unauthorized softwares.  On the human rights activists opinion the real aim was to block the NGOs activity. They believe that authorities, using such methods, with all their might try to show the West that the Russian Federation is meeting its conditions on joining the World Trade Organization. The human rights defenders protest against these illegal actions and suppose that the computers seizures is an original instrument in the authorities` hands to pressure on civil society.

The International Helsinki Foundation also strongly protests the attempts of the authorities to interfere with the work of human rights defenders and independent media and to silence civil society outlets that pursue legitimate goals. This action happened on what would have been the 49th birthday of murdered Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

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