While critics of Putin and the Kremlin contend that the probe into Vladimir Gusinsky and Media-Most is politically motivated and evidence of a more general assault on Russia’s independent press, Sergei Ivanenko (deputy chairman of the Yabloko faction in the State Duma) said yesterday that pro-Kremlin parties have introduced amendments to the federal law on the mass media which would restrict press freedom.
Ivanenko pointed to, among other things, an amendment which would take journalistic status away from freelancers. Ivanenko called this “especially dangerous,” noting that most of the reporters covering the war in Chechnya were not full-time employees of the media for whom they were reporting. “Taking away their status as journalists means the absence of any free information from this region,” Ivanenko said. Meanwhile, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has introduced an amendment to the media law’s fourth article, which currently prohibits “the use of the mass media… for calls for the seizure of power.” According to the amendment, the words “calls for” would be replaced by the more vague formulation “incitement of.” The LDPR amendment would also ban “defilement or disrespect” of the state flag or coat-of-arms in any portrayal, and “disrespect” for the national anthem. For its part, Unity submitted an amendment which would, first, strike from the media law an article giving journalists a special status and, second, transfer the authority to give media licenses from the Federal Broadcasting Commission and its regional departments to the Press Ministry and its regional departments. Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Union of Russian Journalists, said the proposed amendments would “simply cross Russia out of the world community” and that the Unity-sponsored amendment would give the federal authorities total control over television and radio broadcasting (NTV, January 24; Moskovsky komsomolets, January 25).
GAZPROM, LUKOIL TESTING LITHUANIA’S NEW GOVERNMENT.