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Russian Anti-Terrorism Law Tightens Grip On Media


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NEW RUSSIAN ANTI-TERRORISM LAW TIGHTENS GRIP ON MEDIA

Amidst the fallout from last week's hostage crisis in Moscow, which killed 117 people, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) are calling attention to growing restrictions on Russian media, including a new law restricting the media from reporting on anti-terrorist operations and publishing statements by terrorist groups.

CPJ notes that during the hostage crisis, authorities pressured at least three media outlets to remove content related to the events. Radio station, Ekho Moskvy, was warned by the Media Ministry not to broadcast statements by Chechen rebels after it aired an interview with one of the hostage-takers on 24 October. The ministry then ordered the shutting down of Ekhoh Moskvy's website but withdrew after the radio station removed the text of the interview from its site, CPJ and RSF report.

The Media Ministry also shut down television station Moskoviya for a day, accusing it of promoting terrorism, and reprimanded the newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, after it published a photograph of the body of the dead woman killed on 23 October by the hostage-takers.

The moves came shortly after Russia's parliament, the State Duma, passed a new law giving the government more power to restrict media coverage of anti-terrorist operations and terrorists' activities. The "Law on Battling Propaganda of Terrorism in Mass Media" prohibits the media from printing or broadcasting information that justifies extremist activities, justifies resistance to counter-terrorist operations, hinders counter-terrorist operations, and reveals anti-terrorist tactics, says CPJ.

Although the bill needs the approval of the upper house of parliament and President Vladimir Putin's signature before it becomes law, the government's actions during the hostage are based on the proposed law, CPJ says.

The law is likely to further restrict news coverage of the military conflict in Chechnya, which the Russian government calls a "counter-terrorist operation," reports The Guardian. Russian authorities already exercise severe restrictions on journalists reporting in Chechnya. Those brave enough to report on human-rights violations committed by the Russian military, including Novaya Gazeta's Anna Politkovskaya, have been arrested and received death threats.

Visit these links: - CPJ Report on Russia: http://www.cpj.org/news/2002/Russia25oct02na.html - CPJ Interview with Anna Politkovskaya: http://www.cpj.org/news/2001/Russia13nov01na.html - Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/ - RSF 2002 Report on Russia: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=1799&Valider=OK - The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-2112727,00.html

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