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A European Union interparliamentary panel has urged Armenia to bring to justice those behind incidents of violence against journalists, RFE/RL reports.

The call came in a statement issued on December 2 in Brussels at the end of a meeting of the EU-Armenia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

The text "calls for swift and thorough investigation of all such cases and the bringing of perpetrators to justice" and "recognizes the problem of self-censorship" in the Armenian media.

There was a series of attacks on journalists in the aftermath of Armenia's disputed 2008 presidential election, which led to clashes between security forces and opposition demonstrators.

Our Brussels correspondent says negotiations on the final document were tense, as some MEPs protested what they said was a text watered down following pressure from the Armenian delegation.

The initial version spoke of "the urgent need to put an end to the violence against journalists in Armenia," but this was dropped from the final text.

MEP Vytautas Landsbergis, a former Lithuanian head of state, spoke out against the omission, and then left the meeting without taking part in the final vote.

He told RFE/RL: "I only asked: if [the critical clauses] are taken out of the text, does that mean that there are no more violations and no more self-censorship? If it cannot even be mentioned, I asked. You have heard the response: everything is perfect."

The Armenian delegation was led by MP Naira Zohrabyan and Deputy Foreign Minister Karine Kazinian.

The next meeting of the EU-Armenia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee will take place in November 2011 in Yerevan.
The prosecutor's office in the central Russian city of Voronezh has asked a local Muslim leader to provide information about people who attend the local Islamic center, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

The move follows the center's recent victory in a months-long court battle to build a mosque in the city.

The Islamic center is formally subordinate to the Spiritual Board Of Muslims of the European part of Russia.

Aynaz Safiullin, a leading member of the local Muslim community, told RFE/RL on December 1.

"[They asked] how many people attend Friday prayers, who they are, and where they are from. They asked for their phone numbers and addresses. They were also interested in how we pay the rent for our Islamic center and where we get money for it."

Voronezh Oblast police press service deputy head Igor Sushkov said asking for information about Muslims living in Voronezh does not violate the law on investigations.

But human rights activists say doing so contravenes the law on protection of personal data.

The Voronezh Islamic center rents a building in the northern district of the city. It has just started building a mosque after an eight-month court battle.

"The Prosecutor-General's Office, members of the Public Chamber of the State Duma, and local residents did their best to prevent us from building a mosque," Safiullin said.

But the Islam center won the case.

Some 150-200 Muslims attend Friday Prayers and 300-500 people come to the center on Muslim holidays. The center plans to start classes in Tatar, Arabic, and reading the Koran.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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