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Reporters Without Borders concerned by Russia's expulsion of Guardian journalist

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Reporters Without Borders said on Tuesday it was "deeply disturbed" by the deportation of a Moscow correspondent from the British newspaper The Guardian.

Reporters Without Borders said on Tuesday it was "deeply disturbed" by the deportation from Russia of Luke Harding, a Moscow correspondent from the British newspaper The Guardian.

Harding, 42, was refused reentry to Russia at Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Saturday after a two-month absence from the country.

"This is a heavy-handed attempt to get journalists to censor themselves and to prevent impartial coverage of what is happening in Russia," the press freedom organization said in a statement.

Harding was given no explanation for his expulsion, although he said he was told "For you, Russia is closed," by a border official. His visa was annulled and he was placed on a plane back to Britain.

"Harding's expulsion is all the more alarming as he is veteran foreign correspondent who has been based in Russia for years and had the required accreditation and visa," the organization said. "Rescinding a visa in an arbitrary manner marks a further step away from respect for the rule of law."

Harding fell foul of the Russian authorities on a number of occasions, mainly for filing articles claiming that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has a $40 billion offshore account. The journalist was briefly detained while reporting last year from the volatile North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia.

He was also responsible for reporting on U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to The Guardian by WikiLeaks, including allegations that Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin has become a "virtual mafia state".

A RIA Novosti source in a Russian law enforcement agency said Harding was blacklisted as a person whose presence in the country was "undesirable."

Russia ranked 140th out of 178 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2010 press freedom index.

MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti)

 

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