Russia - Reporters covering opposition candidates harassed, while state media lavish coverage on Putin



    MONTREAL, Nov. 30 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by
the way news media are being harassed to prevent them reporting the activities
of the opposition parties taking part in this weekend's parliamentary
elections and by the way the public TV stations have systematically promoted
Vladimir Putin's candidacy.
    "Public opinion is being crudely manipulated," the press freedom
organisation said. "The international community should react to this display
of contempt for democracy, despite President Putin's warnings to other
countries not to 'meddle' in his country's internal affairs."
    Reporters Without Borders added: "Russians have not had access to fair
and unbiased information about all the parties competing in these elections.
This bodes ill for next March's presidential elections."
    With less then 48 hours to go to the legislative elections, a pattern has
emerged of violations of the freedom of journalists covering opposition
parties and candidates.
    Yesterday, journalists working for the news website Lenta.ru, the daily
newspaper Kommersant and Radio Echo of Moscow were arrested along with around
10 people who were staging a demonstration outside the General Directorate for
Internal Affairs in Moscow in support of Garry Kasparov, one of the leaders of
the Other Russia opposition platform, who was sentenced to five days in
detention on 24 November for taking part in a banned rally.
    Irina Borobyeva of Radio Echo of Moscow told Reporters Without Borders
that the police arrested her although she explained to them that she was there
as a journalist. At the police station, the journalists were forced to write
notes justifying their presence at the scene of the demonstration before they
were released. The police also asked Borobyeva to "broadcast something fairly
soft."
    Nikolai Andrushenko, the co-founder of the weekly Novy Peterburg, was
sentenced to two months in detention on 24 November following his arrest the
previous evening in St. Petersburg for resisting the police and obstructing a
search of his home.
    The day before his arrest, police from the organised crime division asked
the weekly's editor, Alevtina Andreyeva, to modify the newspaper's content by
withdrawing an article by Andrushenko headlined "Why I will go on the march of
the dissidents" and an article giving the opposition's programme. Andreyeva
refused to make the requested changes, but was unable to bring out the issue
because no printer was prepared to handle it.
    Three RenTV journalists and a member of the human rights group Memorial
were kidnapped from their hotel in Nazran, the capital of the southern
republic of Ingushetia, on the night of 23 November. They were stripped of
their clothes and equipment, beaten and threatened with execution before
finally being dumped in a remote place outside the city. Two of the
journalists had to be hospitalised.
    They had gone to Nazran to cover a demonstration called to protest
against the failure of the local authorities to put a stop to series of
murders and disappearances.
    At the same time the main national TV stations have been displaying a
flagrant bias in favour of the pro-government United Russia party's most
popular parliamentary candidate, President Putin.
    The Moscow-based Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations has surveyed
the amount of airtime assigned to the different political parties by three
public TV stations - Pervyi Kanal, Rossia and TV Tsentr - and the two leading
privately-owned TV stations - NTV and RenTV - from 1 October to 22 November.
    The survey found that most of the media showed a clear bias in favour of
the ruling United Russia party, and four of the five TV stations dedicated
more than 75 per cent of their news coverage to those in power. The opposition
was ignored and denied any opportunity to present its views. Pervyi Kanal, for
example, refused to broadcast the liberal Yabloko party's campaign spot
criticising Putin's record as president. The survey said news coverage of
Putin was overwhelmingly positive or neutral.

    This is the link for the CJES report:
http://www.memo98.cjes.ru/?p=3&sm2=on&reports=2007111




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Directrice générale, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,
rsfcanada@rsf.org

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