Marko Lönnqvist, Documentary Projects Editor at YLE TV1 (Finnish Broadcasting Company), has told the Glasnost Defense Foundation that a crew of his company’s reporters was detained by police in the Prigorodny District of North Ossetia on December 5.
The journalists had arrived in the Caucasus to shoot a documentary entitled “Putin’s Heritage”. Prior to the trip, Lönnqvist had obtained from the RF Foreign Ministry official Sergey Savchenko a confirmation that they required no special accreditation to work in North Ossetia and Ingushetia, unlike Chechnya where such accreditation is “a must”.
The FBC crew shot some sequences in Beslan, recorded an interview in Vladikavkaz with Soslan Khadikov, the North Ossetian Deputy Minister of National Affairs, whom they told they were planning a trip to the village of Chermen. The deputy minister did not seem to have any objections. But on their way back from Chermen, where they had shot a few more sequences, the crew members were detained at a checkpoint.
Police major Gurtsiyev told Lönnqvist that, pursuant to the RF Government decision of July 4, 1992, foreign citizens were not allowed to stay in Chermen. The police officers confiscated all the video material, including those shot earlier and totally unrelated to Chermen, and drove the journalists to the Prigorodny District police headquarters.
Later in the day Lönnqvist was tried by a district judge who sentenced him to a fine of RUR 2,000 for committing an administrative offense. On the following day, the cameraman was tried and sentenced to a fine of RUR 1,000 for “illegally” using his camera.
The journalists never got back their video materials, although they had been told those would be returned after FSB specialists checked them to erase “controversial” episodes. Obviously, the FSB found the Beslan sequences and the deputy minister’s interview “illegal”, too..