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Russian Journalists Report Media Restrictions

Mos News | April 19, 2007 

Russia's biggest private radio networks journalist said they had been told to keep Kremlin critics off the air by new managers brought in from state-run television, Reuters news agency reported April 19.

Managers at the Russian News Service, which provides news to Russia's most listened-to radio station and its sister stations, denied they were imposing censorship. But staff members said their new bosses had blocked live reports from anti-Kremlin protests over the weekend and blacklisted the chess champion and opposition activist Garry Kasparov from being mentioned.

New managers at the service were also urging journalists to give more airtime to representatives of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, staff said.

Entries posted by other staff members on an Internet blog, mediapartizan.livejournal.com, echoed the journalist's account about the new policy.

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The new general director, Alexander Shkolnik, dismissed talk of a black list of opposition politicians as “stupidity.” He said the only criteria were that coverage “should be current, interesting and not of an extremist character.”

“The whole political spectrum will be represented,” he said.

Asked about Kasparov, he said: “If he does not voice extremist slogans, then we will let him on air.”

Almost all major broadcast media in Russia have come under Kremlin control since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, and analysts predict that will tighten even more before the presidential election next year.

Putin has denied any restrictions on the media, but campaigners say freedom of speech has been steadily eroded during his seven years as president.

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