COPENHAGEN - Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen criticized Russian authorities on Feb. 3 for their refusal to grant a visa to a well-known Danish journalist who has been a Moscow correspondent for seven years.
The daily center-left broadsheet Politiken featured the story on its front page, noting that Russia had given no explanation for its refusal. The female journalist in question, Vibeke Sperling, had been a Moscow correspondent for the independent newspaper Information in 1981-1982 and since the late 1990s for Danish public radio and Politiken.
During her latest stint in Russia, Sperling wrote articles critical of the war in Chechnya and human rights violations in Russia.
"I think that in general, journalists should be able to move freely across borders, and they should be free to criticize any government," Rasmussen told journalists. "I don't know the details of this case in particular, but I take what I've read in the media very seriously."
Rasmussen said it was too early to say whether the Danish government would formulate a formal reaction to the Russian decision, adding that it would wait until it had more information about Moscow's reasons.
"Countries which aspire to the international norms and standards of democratic societies must naturally withstand journalists' criticism," Rasmussen said. He said that while Russia had made significant progress on democracy issues since the early 1990s, there are still "some areas where more must be done."
"It is fundamental for the development of democracy that the media be free to investigate the subjects they want and to criticize governments," he said.
The organization Reporters Without Borders denounced Moscow's decision, saying in a statement that it amounted to "censorship." It urged Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to review the decision.