Moscow: Chechen authorities have shut down a local newspaper after its editor-in-chief asked Russian President Vladimir Putin a question, although they maintain it was not censorship.
Belkis Dudayeva, who heads the Put Kadyrova (Kadyrov`s Way), got the floor for a couple of minutes during Putin`s four-and-a-half-hour press conference in Moscow Thursday.
She managed to squeeze in two questions, one about the cause of unrest in the North Caucasus, which is plagued by Islamic insurgency, and the other about cuts at the state-owned Kavkaz radio.
Although Putin offered plenty of headline-grabbing comments Thursday, his replies to Dudayeva were unremarkable, as he noted the decrease in terrorist attacks and praised local media for their contribution.
The high point was when he snapped at journalists snickering at the seemingly sycophantic name of the newspaper, which he said had been named after Akhmad Kadyrov, the former Chechen rebel who became the republic`s president under Putin, pacifying it with an iron fist until he was killed in a bomb attack in 2004.
Putin was, however, soon upstaged by Chechen authorities, who announced within hours that Put Kadyrova has been closed by its publishers, the Itum-Kalinsky district administration. The paper used Kadyrov`s name without permission, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the late Akhmad Kadyrov, was cited as saying by the Chechen government website.
Dudayeva also asked "provocative questions" unrelated to district affairs, her paper`s area of focus, the report said, without elaborating.
Officials at the Itum-Kalinsky district - a swath of mountain terrain with a population of 7,000 - could not comment, but a deputy district head admitted he learned about the closure from RIA Novosti. Paper representatives could not be reached for comment.
But a spokesman for Kadyrov Jr. told RIA Novosti that the paper was, indeed, shut down on the order of the district head.
Put Kadyrova was not authorised to use Kadyrov`s name, Alvi Karimov confirmed.
But even worse, the paper squandered its chance to put a question to the Russian president on an "insignificant" radio station where Dudayeva is moonlighting, Karimov said.
"She should have asked instead about plans to construct a ski resort in Itum-Kale, or about how to solve regional problems," he said.
But Karimov denied the allegations that the closure was censorship.
"This wasn`t censorship. We simply have our own laws and traditions, and we act based on what is sensible," Karimov said.
He tried to defuse the situation somewhat by saying the paper - which he called an "irregular rag" that mostly reprinted the district administration`s directives - would likely reopen under another name.
But Dudayeva said she has no wish to re-launch Put Kadyrova under another name.
She added that Chechnya was no worse than other Russian regions in terms of media freedom.
Russia ranked 172nd of 197 countries in the 2012 Freedom of the Press report by US watchdog Freedom House.
Critics accuse Ramzan Kadyrov, 36, of building a regime riddled with rights violations.
Ramzan Kadyrov was implicated in the 2006 murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, his ardent critic, though he denied the allegations, which were never raised in court.