Russia's Novaya Gazeta could face closure after second government warning

By Jared M. Feldschreiber  |  July 21, 2015 at 5:19 PM
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MOSCOW, July 21 (UPI) -- Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's last remaining independent newspapers, could face closure after receiving a second warning within the year from Roskomnadzor, the government's media watchdog group.

Under Russian law, the government may shut down a media outlet after two warnings.

The newspaper is accused of publishing expletive language from a literary text, The Moscow Times reported. President Vladimir Putin signed into law this past spring the banning of several crude curse words, which may not appear within the media.

Novaya Gazeta -- translated as the New Gazette -- is well known for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs. Their noted journalists Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova and Yury Shchekochikin were all murdered in connection to their investigations. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev owns 10 percent of the newspaper.

While the offensive word in question had been replaced with asterisks, the word "could [easily] be read," Vadim Ampelonsky, a Roskomnadzor spokesman, said.

Dmitry Muratov, the newspaper's editor, responded that the paper will contest the latest warning in court, and argued that literary works should be permitted some leeway.

"We believe that in works of literature -- we are not speaking about journalistic creations here -- various deviation from the general norm are possible. If you read the text, you will see that it is absolutely beautiful literature," Muratov was quoted as saying.

Roskomnadzor's spokesman underscored that it has yet to decide whether it will proceed with court procedures, Interfax reported.

"Despite the fact that we do indeed have the right to turn to court with the demand that Novaya Gazeta's registration be terminated, we, as a controlling organ, naturally always use our right sensibly. In any event, the decision to turn to court has not been made," the spokesman said.

In Russia, the government largely sets editorial policy at state-owned television stations, which dominate the media landscape, as documented by Freedom House in their annual report.

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