THREATENS MEDIA PLURALISM IN RUSSIA
Many independent journalists in Russia see NTV's fate as an indicator of President Vladimir Putin's apparent policy of limiting press freedom in the country, says CPJ. The organisation adds that on 31 March, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow to voice their concern over Gazprom's potential takeover. Further protests took place in Moscow and St Petersburg on 7 and 8 April in support of journalists who are fighting the takeover, says the European Journalism Centre (EJC), which cites reports from "Russia Today" and Agence France Presse. The largest political crowds seen in the streets for years followed unsuccessful talks between the journalists and the new management on 6 April, says EJC.
While CPJ takes no formal position on media ownership, it remains very concerned about the takeover. Despite assurances from Gazprom that it would not engage in editorial interference, CPJ believes "the current signals are very troubling." IFJ and its Russian affiliate, the Journalists' Union of Russia (JUR), condemn Gazprom's "boardroom coup". IFJ, which has given its full support to protesting NTV journalists and media workers, calls on the new management to agree to a Charter for Editorial Independence that would guarantee staff the right to consultation over changes in management and editorial policy. The proposed Charter would also grant journalists the right to refuse an assignment if it is in breach of journalists' professional ethics as laid down in the JUR's code of conduct or the IFJ declaration of principles on the conduct of journalism. RSF also denounces the takeover, stating that the Russian government is engaging in a deliberate policy to take control of all the audio-visual media with a national audience. The government already controls the two other national television broadcasters, ORT and RTR.
In March, CPJ released a briefing on President Vladimir Putin and the press in Russia, which shows how the new president is using old Kremlin methods to control information. The report, entitled "Managing The Messengers", is available at http://www.cpj.org.