Thursday, 10 February 2011

Russia reverses decision to deport Luke Harding

Russia's foreign ministry has reversed its decision to deport the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, saying that Luke Harding would be granted an extension to his visa to carry on reporting if the newspaper wanted him to.

The Guardian says the U-turn came just before a rare visit by Russia's foreign minister to the UK and follows widespread criticism from British politicians of the journalist's removal.

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders said it was "deeply disturbed" by the expulsion of Harding regarding it as an unacceptable warning to all foreign correspondents based in the country. “This is a heavy-handed attempt to get journalists to censor themselves and to prevent impartial coverage of what is happening in Russia,” RWB said.

Harding was denied entry on his return to Moscow on 5 February after a visit to the UK, and was put on a flight back to London.ovember’s extremely violent attack on Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin."

RWB said denying a Moscow-based correspondent re-entry after a trip abroad is a rarely used procedure but there are precedents. Natalia Morar, a Moldovan journalist who worked in Moscow for the New Times (Novoye Vremya) magazine, suffered this fate in December 2007. Angus Roxburgh of the Sunday Times was the victim of a quid-pro-quo expulsion after the British government expelled 11 suspected Soviet spies in 1989.

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