by Ted Lipien

  FreeMediaOnline.org Free Media Online, Dublin, CA, December 29, 2006 — President Putin’s media chief Mikhail Seslavinsky told Ekho Moskvy radio station there is no censorship of media organizations in Russia. The Interfax news agency reported that the head of the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency (Rospechat) described many television and radio programs in Russia as becoming stale during the past year but insisted that this was not due to censorship.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nongovernmental organization, has called Mr. Seslavinsky’s boss President Vladimir Putin one of the world’s top “Predators of Press Freedom.” The organization said that Mr. Putin is using his training as a former KGB official to continue bringing all the country’s media to heel. According to Reporters Without Borders, the Russian government controls the written press and radio and TV stations through the powerful energy conglomerate Gazprom. “The few papers that escape its clutches are in those of the oligarchs,” Reporters Without Borders states on its web site.

According to the Interfax news agency, Mr. Seslavinsky also told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that he supports the preservation of the vast network of jamming stations built by the Soviet Union, in case it is needed in the future. Mr. Seslavinsky said that jamming stations are used in counter-terrorist operations in all countries and that every country has wartime plans for using broadcast jamming equipment. During the Soviet era, jamming stations in Russia had been used to block Western radio programs but during Mr. Putin’s presidency the Russian authorities have been resorting to administrative measures in restricting free access to news and information.

FreeMediaOnline.org, a California-based nonprofit organization which supports press freedom worldwide, reported that Mr. Seslavinsky’s agency has been responsible for forcing large numbers of radio and television stations in Russia to stop using programs from Western news organizations such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and the BBC. At the same time, Russian state funded-broadcasters including the 24-hour television English-language news channel Russia Today have been expanding their placement on satellite and cable systems in the West.

FreeMediaOnline.org described as false Mr. Putin’s recent claim that Russian broadcasters face political discrimination in the West which prevents placement of their programs on satellite and cable systems. This claim may have originated with President Putin’s media advisors to justify their clampdown on domestic and Western media in Russia. [Link]

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