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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalist Accuses Prosecutors Of Censoring Crisis Coverage

YEKATERINBURG -- The editor of a Russian Internet news portal accused authorities on Wednesday of censoring bad news about the financial crisis after prosecutors questioned journalists reporting on troubled banks.

Sverdlovsk regional prosecutors said they had been ordered to monitor for signs of "information attacks" on banks after reports of liquidity problems sparked a run on several local banks last month.

The inquiry followed a speech by President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month in which he urged law enforcement agencies to prosecute anyone maliciously spreading rumors that could cause banks to collapse.

Aksana Panova, editor of Internet publication www.ura.ru, based in the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, said a prosecutor had summoned her for questioning about her sources of information.

"It turns out that there are provocateurs like me who write about the crisis," Panova said. "This is a throwback to the Soviet Union. It's not journalists they should be punishing but the management of the banks that got into trouble."

She added: "There is a law on the media that regulates my activities. Why is the prosecutor's office putting itself before the law and dictating how I should write?"

Rimma Bobina, an official in the local prosecutor's office, said investigators would also be following what other media report.

"An investigation is under way into cases of information attacks, via the Internet, on credit institutions in Yekaterinburg," Bobina said. "We are conducting daily monitoring of all media."

The country has been among the biggest losers from the global financial crisis. Its two main stock markets have lost about 75 percent of their value since peaks in May, and the ruble has fallen 15 percent against the dollar in the same period. The three national television stations, which are all state-owned or controlled by companies in which the state has a major share, have been muted in their reporting of the crisis at home.