Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s three-hour raid on The New Times, an independent Moscow-based weekly, by armed and masked police officers led by Col. Stanislav Pashkovsky, the head of the General Directorate of Internal Affairs (GUVD) for the Moscow region, who wanted to identify the sources for a February exposé on riot police corruption and abuses.
Col. Pashkovsky was after the recordings of interviews that members of the OMON riot police gave anonymously to reporter Ilya Barabanov for the story entitled “OMON Slaves,” which has been the subject of an interior ministry libel suit since April. Barabanov is the winner of this year’s Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
During yesterday’s raid, The New Times editor Yevgenia Albats agreed to give Pashkovsky a transcript of the interviews but refused to name the sources or surrender the recordings, which would have allowed the police to identify the sources. The grounds she gave for refusing were article 41 of the media law, which protects journalists’ sources.
“We will not betray the people who entrust us with information,” she said, adding that there was no doubt that “the leading goal of this operation was to scare the journalists of The New Times and other news media.”
Reporters Without Borders issued a press release on 14 April (http://en.rsf.org/russie-police-try-to-search-moscow-weekly-14-04-2010,37010.html) condemning that day’s abortive attempt by Moscow police to raid The New Times on the basis of a search order issued by Moscow’s Tverskoi district court that was being appealed.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for The New Times and all its staff, who have a record of doing major investigative stories on subjects of great public interest, the very essence of quality journalism. As the 14 April release said, the protection of reporters’ sources is an essential component of media freedom and without it there could be no investigative journalism.
Reporters Without Borders also condemns the Moscow region GUVD’s repeated raids aimed at forcing Kommersant, Svobodnaya Pressa, Gazeta.ru and Novaya Gazeta journalists to disclose their sources. For more information, see this 12 August release: http://en.rsf.org/russie-journalists-interrogated-photos-12-08-2010,38126.html
Russia is ranked 153rd out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.