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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Anpilov Calls for Unity Against Press Body

Viktor Anpilov, the radical communist firebrand, called on newspaper editors Friday to unite to stop the "rabid attack" on free speech he said had been launched by the State Press Committee.

"We issued a warning two years ago that if the opposition were not given the opportunity to speak, there would be war," he told assembled journalists. "That prediction came true. There was war. And war is coming now."

Anpilov addressed a press conference called by the Russian-Palestinian newspaper Al-Kods, a strident weekly whose stated aim is saving the world from Zionism. The Press Committee revoked the paper's license Nov. 17 on the grounds that it was obtained by fraud.

The newspaper's founder, Shaaban Khafez Shaaban, is a citizen of Jordan. According to Russian law, foreign citizens are prohibited from opening Russian newspapers. The Press Committee claims that Shaaban hid his citizenship status when he registered the newspaper. Al-Kods insists that the law on the press clearly states that only the courts can revoke a newspaper's license, no matter what the facts of the case are.

"They could not shut us down through the courts, so they decided to do it by force," said editor Vladimir Yakushev.

The newspaper printed two issues after the official closure, said Yakushev. But this week the publisher refused to print, and Al-Kods has been effectively shut down.

Anpilov joined Yakushev in calling the closure illegal, a glaring example of official arbitrariness, an attempt to strangle free speech.

"This is only the first step," thundered Anpilov.

"The authorities are trying to do away with freedom of the press. If we do not defend ourselves, the next step will be Zavtra, then Sovietskaya Rossiya, then Pravda," said Yakushev, naming the most prominent of the opposition papers.

Sergei Gryzunov, chairman of the Press Committee, at a briefing for journalists Thursday, said the press law did not allow the immediate closure of fascist publications, of which, he added, there are more than 100 in Russia.

The Press and Information Ministry, forerunner of the Press Committee, has brought several suits against radical opposition newspapers, including Zavtra, for incitement to violence, fanning national enmity, and other violations of the law on the press. The courts have so far rejected all such legal actions.

In an earlier interview Alexei Morgun, spokesman for the Press Committee, acknowledged that the press law is not adequate for closing even publications that are in clear violation of the law.