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Moscow court slaps independent magazine with crippling 22-million-ruble fine for late paperwork

Source: Meduza

On October 26, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court fined the independent magazine The New Times and its chief editor, Evgeniya Albats, 22 million rubles ($335,000) for failing to report the outlet’s funding in a timely manner to federal media regulators. Albats and her lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, argue that the statute of limitations had already expired in the misdemeanor case, saying that the authorities only decided to pursue the charges seriously after October 22, when Albats hosted anti-corruption activist and opposition politician Alexey Navalny on her radio show.

The New Times used to receive support from the Press Freedom Foundation, which is financed largely by the entrepreneur Boris Zimin. In July 2015, the Russian government designated Zimin’s foundation as a “foreign agent.” In April 2018, State Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhak suddenly demanded an investigation into The New Times’s funding, leading to allegations that the magazine was late with its transparency paperwork in 2017. Because the statute of limitations on this offense is just three months, the first judge returned the case to prosecutors, who promptly filed an appeal in the Tverskoy District Court.

The district court called for a retrial on October 25 around noon, and the hearing miraculously took place three hours later in a small claims court, without Albats or her lawyer being present. The verdict was a 22-million-ruble fine: a sum of money that is equal to the magazine’s annual operating costs, Prokhorov told Meduza, and therefore means the end of The New Times, if the outlet can’t win in appellate court or crowdfund the money.

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