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Reporters on the Job

A Ban on Photos? Moscow-based staff writer Scott Peterson found out Sunday how authoritarian trends in Russia are continuing (perhaps in the name of state security) when he raised his camera outside the State Duma building. The building is half a block away from the Kremlin and Red Square, so police are used to having tourists with cameras wandering around.

Scott's photo subject was the huge hotel across the street from the Duma. The hotel has been covered with a banner for President Vladimir Putin's favorite party (page 7) "United Russia." But as he and his interpreter were leaving, they were stopped by two Russian police officers, who demanded to see identification. The police said they had orders to confiscate the film, and that their commander had been watching Scott with security cameras. "Do you have a letter with permission to photograph that building?" the officer demanded. "It's a [government] regime building."

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Scott and his interpreter thought they were joking. But then Scott showed them a press pass from the office of one of Putin's top aides. "That guy," the policeman said dismissively, about Putin's aide: "What power does he have anymore?" Scott and his interpreter were let go, and walked away, he says laughing at the absurdity of it, as a tourist toting a camera strode past.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot