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Southern Urals media community concerned over dismissal of editors

(CJES/IFEX) - 3 October 2011 - The Chelyabinsk city portal http://www.mediazavod.ru has reported that the Southern Urals media community is concerned about the dismissal of several editors of media publications over the past few days. The closer the State Duma elections, the more editors feel the instability of their position and report pressure from the authorities.

Among the dismissed editors is Gennady Dontsov, former editor of "Yuzhnouralets" newspaper. The journalist says he fell into disfavour on 15 July, when the heads of all press and electronic media publications in Chebarkul were told that all media materials would be checked by a political technologist from United Russia before airing or going to print. Dontsov said such actions constitute censorship, which is prohibited by Russian media legislation.

Nikolai Batavin was dismissed from his post as editor of the Verkhneuralsk-based "Krasny Uralets" newspaper in September. When Batavin learned about his dismissal, he decided to publish in the paper an address to his readers entitled "My Final Statesmen", in which he made accusations against Sergei Khabin, the head of the district. When the district administers learned about the content of the publication, the papers, which had already been printed, were seized, the edition was then edited and reprinted.

Viktor Silayev has also been dismissed from his post as editor of the Bredinsk district-based "Selskiye Novosti" newspaper, while Ivan Smetanin was dismissed as editor of "Nyazepetrovskiye Vesti" newspaper. Alexander Kovalyov was dismissed from the post of editor-in-chief of "Kolos" newspaper (Uisk district).

Meanwhile, Alexander Serkov, the head of the district of Chesmensky, managed to prevent the dismissal of Vasily Batavin from his post as editor of "Stepnyye Zori" newspaper. Officials from the local administration told Batavin in a phone conversation that he would be fired from the position in which he had worked for 26 years on 21 September. Batavin, a pensioner, took the unpleasant news calmly, told the paper's staff about his upcoming dismissal and went to say goodbye to the district authorities. Serkov, who was recently elected as head of the district and who is also a co-founder of the paper's editorial board, was surprised because he had not been notified of the journalist's dismissal. Serkov was persistent about the matter and went as high as the deputy governor.

Journalists are divided on the current events. Some link them to political cleansing before the elections, saying the purpose of all the staff reshuffling is to appoint people absolutely loyal to the current administration to the posts of editors-in-chief of the media outlets. Others do not agree and believe the dismissed editors have been fired for not being sufficiently professional.

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