Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 68

At the same time, Kiselev and the NTV journalists, who had been broadcasting only news and information round-the-clock as a sign of protest against the takeover, decided yesterday to resume regular broadcasting. The decision coincided with warnings from the Press Ministry that NTV, by abandoning regularly scheduled programming, was violating the terms of its broadcasting license. The NTV journalists stressed that the decision to return to regular programming was in no way a sign that they were abandoning their protest against Gazprom’s takeover. Meanwhile, there were hints that the government might resort to force if the dispute were not settled and the NTV journalists continued their protest. For example, Boris Jordan said yesterday in an interview that he had asked Press Minister Mikhail Lesin not to cut off NTV’s signal in response to its having violated the terms of its broadcasting license. Anatoly Blinov, the Gazprom-Media board member who stepped down because he disagreed with the methods it was using in its battle with NTV, said yesterday that he thought Jordan’s comments were a veiled threat that NTV’s signal could be cut. Blinov also said yesterday he though the authorities might use force to evict the NTV journalists (Russian agencies, NTV, April 5; see also the Monitor, April 5).

Meanwhile, the coordinating committee of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) yesterday announced yesterday that it supported “the actions of the NTV journalists in the fight for free speech.” One SPS leader, Irina Khakamada, said the party viewed the pressure on NTV as political, in spite of its “economic form.” While that was the official SPS position, there were indications that the party is split over the issue of whether to support NTV. Arkady Murashev, chairman of the executive council of the SPS branch in Moscow, said that many SPS members do not support the NTV journalists–himself included. Murashev said that he backed Kokh and Gazprom, noting that Kokh is “one of the closest people to our leader, Anatoly Chubais” (NTV, April 5; Kommersant, April 6). Another SPS leader, Boris Nemtsov, said he did not know Chubais’ position vis-a-vis NTV. Indeed, Chubais, who heads United Energy Systems, has made not any public statements about the Gazprom takeover of NTV. However, unlike a number of his SPS colleagues, Chubais did not sign the recent open letter protesting the actions against NTV (see the Monitor, March 30).

Polling data suggests that a majority of Russians do not sympathize with NTV’s journalists. In a poll taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), only 11 percent said that they were “very disturbed” by “the state’s attempts to establish control over NTV.” Twenty-four percent said they were disturbed to some degree, 44 percent said they were not at all disturbed and 13 percent said they did not believe the state was trying to take control of NTV (Gazeta.ru, April 5).