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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

NO EASY ANSWERS FOR REGIONAL MEDIA

Dina Oyun A reporter may want to think twice the next time he gets the chance to ask President Vladimir Putin a question.

Media outlets in Tuva and Nenets are under fire after they brought allegations of regional corruption to Putin's attention at a news conference last month.

The head of Tuva's election commission has asked the local prosecutor's office to investigate Dina Oyun, 39, who runs the Tuva Online web site, for a question she posed at the June 24 news conference about election law violations in the remote Siberian republic. The editor of the newspaper Naryana Vynder, or Red Tundra-Dweller, in the northern Nenets autonomous district was fired last week after one of her journalists asked Putin why three local prosecutors in a row had lost their jobs after summoning Governor Vladimir Butov for questioning.

Nenets law enforcement agencies have opened a criminal investigation into the editor's alleged financial mismanagement of the newspaper, Interfax reported Sunday. Deputy Press Minister Mikhail Seslavinsky on Friday called the actions in Tuva and Nenets "disgraceful," Interfax reported. He said the "alexistrative drive" to deal with journalists by calling in prosecutors was out of line, RIA Novosti reported.

Oyun of Tuva Online asked Putin at the news conference what he thought should be done to prevent voting fraud and restore people's trust in the electoral process. She told the president that recent elections in Tuva "have been conducted with an unprecedented number of violations of election law." Oyun, who is currently studying in Moscow, said by telephone Friday that one of the most common election violations in Tuva is distributing alcohol in exchange for votes. This spring, seeds and agricultural equipment were given out for votes, she said.

Putin promised Oyun that he would bring up the issue of election fraud with Central Elections Commission head Alexander Veshnyakov. Back in Tuva, however, the local authorities were not quite so receptive to the allegations. On June 27, the local government-backed Tuvinskaya Pravda newspaper ran an editorial that accused Oyun of "driving a wedge between federal and regional authorities" and "causing the republic colossal damage." At about the same time, local election commission head Sholban Mongush filed an appeal with the prosecutor's office to investigate the matter further and either prove Oyun's fraud allegations or bring charges against her.

Oyun said she is ready to defend her allegations. "I am actually very pleased and surprised," she said Friday. "All day today, I have been getting phone calls and e-mails of support and people offering help with gathering evidence of election fraud."

Oyun also said she was excited to talk to Putin. "It looked like he really was after the truth at this news conference," she said. "All I wanted to do was to give him that truth."

Valeria Korchagina, The Moscow Times
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