Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kremlin to get tighter grip on media than Communist Party had - expert

[Deleted previous related article]


Russian television almost entirely blocks the voice of the opposition, according to a survey published yesterday by the Union of Journalists. The country's newspapers are now also becoming a mere mouthpiece for the ruling party. Izvestia, Russia's oldest daily, is now acting as an information partner for United Russia, and has appointed an activist from the party's central executive committee as deputy editor-in-chief.

In a March survey, the Union of Journalists said Channel 1 covered the activities of the Russian leadership (the president, the government and United Russia party) in 91% of its programs, with 71% of them in a positive key, while opposition parties received 2% of air time. Rossiya TV channel covered the authorities in 88% of its prime-time news.

"The federal TV channels have monopolized the information space in favor of the ruling party and lost the characteristics of media sources," said Igor Yakovenko, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists. "If the ruling party gets similarly disproportional representation in the press, the incumbent government will leave even the Communist Party behind."

This scenario seems likely. Izvestia has become an information partner of United Russia, sources in the newspaper and the party said. Izvestia has for several months published positive information about United Russia on a commercial basis. The daily and the party have been close partners for at least four months, an Izvestia employee said. Positive articles about the party are regularly published without the "advertisement" sign under them.

Last Thursday, the daily published a four-page color supplement on the party's Moscow branch. According to Andrei Metelsky, head of the United Russia faction in the Moscow city legislature, the party did not pay a kopek for the supplement.

Information about the government is divided into three blocks: one covering President Vladimir Putin's activity, another about deputy premier Dmitry Medvedev and the third about the ruling party, said another source in the Izvestia board. "The first two blocks are published free of charge, while features on United Russia are sponsored from an administrative-commercial source," he said.

A United Russia source said: "We prefer Rossiiskaya Gazeta because we can access every village through it."

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