Debate - Opinion in English, Russia and Baltic States
Debate - Opinion in English
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Paper Mocking Yakovlev Is Seized By Vladimir Kovalyev STAFF WRITER ST Petersburg Times 25 april 2000 Local police last week confiscated copies of a newspaper which featured a silhouette of a man apparently meant to be City Gov. Vladimir Yakovlev with his genitals exposed. Thirteen thousand copies of the paper, called Moya Stolitsa, or My Capital, were seized by police as they were being distributed for free to residential mailboxes in the southeastern Nevsky District on Thursday evening. Police spokesmen said that the newspapers were taken because information on the paper's price, as well as the address and telephone number of the printers, were not published, in violation of federal law concerning the media. "The newspaper was breaking federal law, and that is why we confiscated these copies," said Sergei Nefyodov, head of police station No. 45 in the Nevsky District, in a telephone interview on Friday. He said the matter had been passed on to the City Prosecutor's Office. The City Electoral Commission has also asked the Prosecutor's Office to investigate. Indeed, the confiscated issue of Moya Stolistsa, which came out April 8, lists only its editor, a deputy editor, a publisher registration number and typsetting house, Kurier, on its masthead. But the newspaper's publishers say 13,000 copies of the paper's claimed 500,000 print run were rounded up in violation of free speech rights because the graphic silhouette of Yakolvev - complete with his penis hanging below his overcoat and standing over the city - offended City Hall. The illustration was accompanied by a caption reading "Economic planner Yakovlev shows the city his equipment (khozyaistvo)." Moya Stolitsa is published by the Cross Media company, which also produces the local weekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the satirical newspaper Komar. Both publications are known for their anti-Yakovlev stance. Novaya Gazeta has consistently criticized the governor over the last three years. Last month, Komar printed photographs of the heads of both Yakovlev and Vice Prime Minster Valentina Matviyenko - who was then considering running in next month's gubernatorial elections - along with various items of clothing, including underwear, and invited readers to cut out the photographs and assemble their "fantasy politician." Alexei Razaryonov, the head of Cross Media, said the publishing house had been informed earlier this month that it was violating media law by the northwestern department of the State Press Committee. "According to the law, we have one month to correct our mistakes [in Moya Stolitsa] and we will definitely do that," Razaryonov said in telephone interview Friday. Anna Sharogradskaya of the National Press Institute agreed, saying the paper must be proved to have broken a law before its circulation is forcibly stopped by authorities. Razaryonov accused the police of using the media law as a club to beat papers that printed anti-Yakolvev material. But Razaryonov also refused to say who financed the Cross Media company, although he did say that Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces (SPS), two of the main opposition parties in St. Petersburg, had nothing to do with Moya Stolitsa. Yabloko representatives moved to distance the party from Moya Stolitsa on Monday, and condemned the manner in which the paper had attacked Yakovlev. "[These are] the tactics of [Petersburg Television's] analytical program 'Politics - Petersburg Style,'" said Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko member, in reference to the controversial program now off the air. "I don't feel like defending the freedom of the press right now," said Alexander Afanasiyev, the governor's spokesman, who himself used a crude Russian swearword to describe the poster. Some politicians, however, condemned the "arbitrariness of the local police" in confiscating the paper. "It is [as if] the police solved all the organized crime, corruption and contract killings in St. Petersburg, and the only thing left is the media destroying [City Hall's] idyllic picture of the city," said Ruslan Linkov, head of the local Democratic Russia party, which is affiliated to SPS.
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