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Forbes Russia policy not affected by court decision - editor

MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow court decision to uphold libel claims against Forbes Russia will not affect the magazine's editorial policy, chief editor said Wednesday.

Maxim Kashulinsky, Forbes Russia's editor-in-chief, has been ordered to pay over 109,000 rubles ($4,186) in a lawsuit filed by the Inteko company, owned by the Moscow mayor's wife, Yelena Baturina.

"Papers win or lose lawsuits on a regular basis almost every month," Kashulinsky said, adding that he intended to appeal the decision in the Moscow City Court.

"We want the [higher] court to hear our position at least, because during today's session we were not even allowed to bring our witnesses," he said.

Inteko, a construction and investment firm, filed a lawsuit against Forbes after its editorial board in Russia rejected Inteko's claim to cite sources that provided background for a feature story about Baturina and Inteko in the December 2006 edition of the magazine.

The reason that caused the legal action against Kashulinsky was a statement made by the Forbes Russia editor-in-chief on Ekho Moskvy (Echo Moscow) radio December 1, 2006, saying that Inteko's claims were a "violation of media freedom" and "media censorship is unacceptable."

The December issue of Forbes Russia carried a seven-page article about Yelena Baturina, Russia's richest woman and the wife of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and her company Inteko, and was nearly scrapped after Baturina's representatives threatened to sue the publishers for misquoting her on the cover of the magazine.

A leading Russian business daily, Kommersant, said at the time that the article highlighted how Baturina had reshaped her real estate business following her husband's departure from office in December 2007 so that Inteko could continue to profit from leasing land and real estate. The report cited figures in the confirmation.

The cover of the magazine originally carried Baturina's picture and quoted her as saying: "I have guaranteed protection."

However, Inteko representatives said the quote was misrepresented, and publishing house Axel Springer agreed to correct it to read: "I have guaranteed protection as an investor."

Following today's trial, Kashulinsky's lawyer, Alexander Dobrovinsky, said he would appeal the court's decision in the Moscow City Court and continue to fight against claims that violate the law on mass media and principles of freedom of speech.

"Unfortunately, such claims are used more and more often to punish journalists for voicing their position," Dobrovinsky said. "This case is a typical example."

Maxim Kashulinsky became chief editor of Forbes Russia after its first editor, Paul Klebnikov, was murdered in an alleged contract killing in 2004 while leaving his Moscow office.

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