Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 79

Some regional governors are reportedly using various heavy-handed tactics against the media, including good old-fashioned censorship. One case involves the newspaper Izvestia, which strongly criticized Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov in the lead story of its April 14 edition. The paper wrote that Ayatskov cares only about one thing, holding on to power “by any means,” and alleged that in the March 26 gubernatorial election, which Ayatskov won overwhelmingly, he illegally disqualified rivals and manipulated the results (Izvestia, April 14).

The edition of Izvestia published in Saratov on April 14 appears to have been censored by the local authorities. The original version of the article on Ayatskov stated: “All of his promises have only one common characteristic–they are never fulfilled.” In the local Saratov edition, that sentence was altered to read: “All of his promises have only one common characteristic–they are sometimes fulfilled.” The original version of the article stated that the March 26 gubernatorial elections in Saratov “were carried out with outrageous violations of legality.” The same sentence in the Saratov version of the paper was amended to say that the elections were “in the opinion of his [Ayatskov’s] main rivals, allegedly carried out with violations of legality.” Yesterday, Izvestia accused Ayatskov of censorship and leveled other charges against him. The paper appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office to open a criminal investigation into the Saratov governor’s actions (Izvestia, April 18).

Saratov, of course, is by no means the only region where press freedom is violated. For example, the April 13 edition of the newspaper Molodozhnaya gazeta, in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan, was barred from publication on the orders of the republic’s press ministry. The edition had included an article on Bashkortostan’s language law. Earlier, on April 7, Bashkortostan’s cabinet of ministers issued a decree putting three local papers, including Molodozhnaya Gazeta, under a publishing house controlled by the republican authorities. The following day, the cabinet issued a decree firing the editors of all three papers.

Back in February, the governor of the Tambov region, Oleg Betin, a former Kremlin representative in the region who was elected its governor last December, took over four local independent newspapers. The papers are now reportedly subject to pre-publication review by the authorities. An issue of one of the papers, which had included an article on the local authorities’ takeover of the papers, was reportedly barred from publication (Versiya, April 18).