Russia7 December 2005
Anchor and three other senior staff resign from Ren-TV
Olga Romanova, the anchor of the Ren-TV news programme “24,” Elena Fedorova, the station’s news director, Tatiana Kokova, the “24” producer, and Olga Chorina, its editor, all finally resigned yesterday in protest against censorship and systematic programming control by the station’s new management.
In an interview for Gazeta.ru, Fedorova criticised the new management’s lack of professionalism and its use of spurious arguments to justify pulling “24.” She also complained in an interview for the radio station Ekho Moskvy (Moscow Echoes) about “a new system of access cards to the production offices and new criteria for choosing experts to come and speak in the studio.”
Romanova is to become the presenter of two weekly programmes on Ekho Moskvy, “Bolshoy Dozor” and “Ekonomika.”
30 November 2005
Olga Romanova says she fears for her safety
Star news presenter of Ren-TV, Olga Romanova, told a press conference in Moscow on 29 November that she fears for her safety and that of her two children.
She said that since she began a lawsuit, after security guards prevented her from going on air, she was being constantly followed by a black Audi car.
She added that she did not want “to suffer the same fate as Paul Khlebnikov”, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, who was gunned down on a street in the capital on 9 July 2004.
The management of Ren-TV on 28 November banned its staff from giving the presenter any information about what was going on at the station.
28 November 2005
Censorship fears as last independent television station sidelines outspoken presenter
Reporters Without Borders condemned a decision by the management of Ren-TV to prevent a star presenter on the news analysis programme “24” from broadcasting.
Olga Romanova was told on 24 November that she was not going on air that night. Three security guards, none of them employed by the station, physically stopped her from entering the studio after she refused to accept the ban.
“Today in Russia, the government controls virtually every media in the country“, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Ren-TV is the last TV station still seen as independent.
“Romanova specialised in reports critical of the authorities and in particular the Kremlin’s policy towards the broadcast sector, making this case particularly worrying.”
Reporters Without Borders said it was anxious about the future of the station. “It was the last bastion of the independent broadcast media and we fear the Russian media landscape will be the poorer for it”.
A few days before being ousted, Romanova was banned from presenting two topics by the head of programming. The first related to the end of the trial of a son of the defence minister, Sergey Ivanov, who killed a woman in a car accident, and the second was about the construction of a 15-million dollar crystal chapel by the architect Zurab Tsereteli, who is close to the government.
The new managing director of Ren-TV, Alexander Ordjonikidze, explained the ban on the journalist by the need to boost the channel’s ratings by trying out new programming and new presenters and not to allow Olga Romanova to monopolise the evening schedule.
Ren-TV management changed in July and the Russian steel company Severstal and oil group Surgutneftegaz, both close to the government, now share 70% of its stock. The third owner is German company Bertelsmann.
Ordjonikidzé said that Romanova would resume work on 28 November.
The presenter has meanwhile decided to take legal action against the security guards who prevented her from getting into the studio.