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Aksana Panova

Aksana Panova has paid a high price for her determination to expose corruption and negligence among powerful local figures in the Yekaterinburg region in the Urals -- she has been banned from doing her job until the end of 2015. The outspokenness of the Ura.ru website that she launched in 2006, and of which she was editor, rapidly gained it popularity. It covered a variety of topics – the poor condition of the roads, the fight against drug abuse, police corruption. But Panova has powerful enemies in the region, which is one of the country’s main industrial and oil centres. Ousted from Ura.ru, she set up Znak.com in 2012 and most of her editorial staff joined her there. However, she was hit by a flurry of lawsuits. As soon as one allegation collapsed, another arose. After a year-and-a-half of litigation, she was cleared in two cases and exempted from punishment in a third. However, a businessman brought a well-timed suit claiming damages that he had incurred five years earlier and succeeded in getting her convicted of extortion. She received a fine, a two-year suspended sentence and a ban on practising her profession for the same period.