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Thousands Demonstrate in Moscow

Saturday March 31 7:11 AM ET

MOSCOW (AP) - Thousands of people gathered in a central Moscow square Saturday to voice support for freedom of the press in Russia, especially the embattled private NTV television.


Organizers said at least 20,000 people turned out for a combination rock concert and political rally to speak out in favor of press freedoms and to defend NTV, the only major Russian television station outside the control of the Kremlin.

Police estimated the crowd in Pushkin Square at about 9,000, the Interfax news agency said.

The state-connected gas giant Gazprom has been trying for months to seize control of NTV, a move which the station claims is part of a Kremlin attack on freedom of the press.

Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko party, told the crowd: "We know why NTV is being destroyed."

He said without the free voice of NTV, the government can say what it wants, "so that they can tell us how they fight terrorism, so that they can lie about how they fight corruption."

But, he said, "we know that it is not a fight against terrorism (in Chechnya (news - web sites)), but a full-scale war, senseless and cruel. We know it is not a fight against corruption, but a fight against freedom of speech."

Alexei Simonov, a prominent journalist and rally organizer, said the people came to hear rock music that was once censored and to hear speeches that were impossible under Soviet times.

NTV is the flagship of the Media-Most company, which claims that President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites)'s administration is trying to stifle its criticism of the government in the courts.

See also:

The Associated Press

20,000 Turn Out in Support of NTV
Combined Reports
The Moscow Times, Monday, April 2, 2001, p.3

Big Rally Defends Russia's Independent NTV Channel
By Ron Popeski
Reuters, Saturday March 31 8:24 AM ET

Russians Protest for Press Freedom
The Associated Press
Saturday March 31 11:52 AM ET

Saturday March 31 7:11 AM ET

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