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Russia25 October 2002

Government orders TV station to close and threatens other media

Reporters Without Borders condemned the Russian government today for ordering the closure on 25 October of the regional TV station Moskovia for allegedly breaking the country’s anti-terrorist and information laws in connection with last week’s kidnapping by Chechen rebel commandos of more than 700 people in a Moscow theatre.

Information minister Mikhail Lessin also threatened to shut down the Internet website of the radio station Moscow Echo for posting an interview with the kidnappers. The station then removed the interview from the site. Lessin reportedly forbade the television station NTV to broadcast a similar interview.

"The anti-terrorist battle must not restrict press freedom in Russia," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Russians have long been deprived of credible and independent news about the war in Chechnya. This censorship must not be extended to episodes like the theatre kidnapping," he said.

The Russian parliament last week approved a bill sharply curbing the media’s right to report on anti-terrorist operations and banning them from broadcasting the statements of terrorists.

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