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Russia25 November 2002

Putin demands revision of anti-terrorist law

President Vladimir Putin vetoed an amendment on 25 November to the anti-terrorist law severely restricting press freedom. He asked the two houses of parliament to set up a joint committee to revise the amendment, which would ban the media from putting out news that "hindered an anti-terrorist operation" or was "opposition propaganda against an operation or an attempt to justify such opposition."

22.11.2002 - Foreign media under censorship pressure for Chechnya reporting

Reporters Without Borders protested strongly today at two attempts by the Russian authorities to censor foreign media covering the fighting in Chechnya and Russian "anti-terrorist operations."

"In the space of just a few weeks, Russia has sunk into straight censorship," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to President Vladimir Putin. "Parliament adopted an anti-terrorist law allowing prosecution of any journalist who reports on the Chechnya situation, several media have been penalised for their coverage of the recent Moscow theatre hostage-taking, and now the authorities are criticising and censoring the foreign media for reporting on Chechnya."

"We ask you to veto the amendments to the anti-terrorist law and put an end to the pressure being exerted on the Russian and foreign media for their Chechnya coverage," he said.

At an airport in Ingushetia on 20 November, Russian security agents seized four cassettes of footage about Chechen refugees from Hans-Wilhelm Steinfeld, Moscow correspondent for the Norwegian public TV station NRK. The film was later returned to him, but two of the cassettes had been partly erased.

The Russian embassy in Germany wrote on 13 November to Fritz Pleitgen, head of the German public TV station ARD, complaining about German media coverage of the Moscow hostage-taking, especially by ARD, whose reporting he called "shocking, totally unacceptable and disgraceful for a public institution."

"The biased editing" and "choice of disgusting words" in the reports raised doubts about Moscow’s determination to reach a political solution to the conflict, the letter said, suggesting that the Russian authorities might not cooperate with ARD.

The Russian parliament (the Duma) passed on a third reading on 13 November an amendment to the anti-terrorist law sharply curbing press freedom by banning the media from putting out news that "hindered an anti-terrorist operation" or was "opposition propaganda against an operation or an attempt to justify such opposition." Its vague terms gave the government power to prosecute any journalist or media outlet reporting on terrorism or the war in Chechnya.

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