Presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin says that Boris Yeltsin will veto a bill passed yesterday by the State Duma setting up a council “for the protection of morality” on television and radio. Yakushkin said that the Duma’s proposed legislation was an attempt to restrict freedom of speech and that such a council would violate the Russian constitution. The bill, which was sponsored by the Duma’s communist faction, called for the creation of a council to defend family values, “strengthen love and respect for the fatherland and belief in goodwill and justice” and defend Russia’s languages and national traditions. It would be made up of twelve people appointed by the president, the government and the parliament, and could impose fines on those who violate moral norms on the air. The bill’s sponsors deny that such a council would constitute censorship, saying it would resemble the media oversight commission which exists in France (Russian agencies, March 10; Moscow Times, March 11). Violent action movies and even soft-core pornography have become regular features on some of Russia’s main channels, which has raised the hackles of many citizens, particularly supporters of the communists and allied parties.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Yeltsin vetoed a law passed by the Duma which would have given parliamentary deputies, among other things, a second salary as a “reimbursement” for expenses; pension benefits amounting to 75 percent of their salary, to be supplemented by indexing; and a severance package worth three months’ of pay to members who are not reelected. The current salary of a Duma deputy is the same as that of a government minister–6,000 rubles (around US$2,400) a month (Kommersant daily, March 9). The lawmakers passed another bill yesterday which would revive the anthem of the Soviet Union as Russia’s national anthem (Russian agencies, March 10).
KYRGYZSTAN SUSPENDS PAYMENTS.