Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eviction Notice Is Latest Russian Move Against Journalists - New York Times 

Eviction Notice Is Latest Russian Move Against Journalists - New York Times

Free and independent journalism are under the attack in Putin's Russia. It is a lamentable development.

Independent news reporting on themes like corruption, poverty, public health and the wars in Chechnya flourished after the Soviet Union’s collapse but has sharply declined under President Vladimir V. Putin. Critics of the Kremlin say that opposition views are now at risk of disappearing from the public discourse.

In place of diverse opinions and perspectives, the three national television networks have been brought under the state’s influence or outright control, and Russia Today, a state-run global television channel, was created in 2005 to promote pro-Kremlin views in formats that resemble modern news broadcasts.

A few news Web sites, a shrinking pool of independent newspapers, all with limited circulations, and a sole radio station, Ekho Moskvy, are almost the only remaining outlets for independent news and public dissent.

Foreign radio material has been restricted or blocked from most frequencies across the country. Parliament, at the request of the country’s top prosecutor and law enforcement arm, is considering restrictions on the Internet, which could further limit choices for audiences seeking uncensored content.

The latest crackdowns have taken a range of forms, including direct police action, the policy at Russian News Service requiring journalists to broadcast content deemed “positive” by managers friendly to the Kremlin and the eviction notice to the journalists’ union, which occupies space in a state-owned building.

The eviction order, presented Tuesday by the Federal Property Management Agency, the union said, ordered the offices vacated by Friday — 10 days before the 26th World Congress of Journalists is to gather in Moscow.

Restrictions on press freedoms in Russia are expected to be high on the journalist’s agenda; the union has been helping to coordinate the gathering and trying to find donors for it.

Igor A. Yakovenko, the union’s general secretary, said that Russian officials had told the union’s lawyer that its space was needed for Russia Today, the state-owned channel.

“This action and its timing are clearly political and send a distressing message,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organization. “The government is ousting an independent press group in favor of an outlet dedicated to propaganda.”

The world must take notice and condemn the intimidation of Russian journalists.


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