Thousands of protesters, many with signs
denouncing President Vladimir Putin, poured
into a Moscow square on Saturday to defend
NTV television from what they saw as a
Organizers and police said at least 20,000
people turned out for the demonstration on
Pushkin Square, at which prominent liberals
said NTV was in danger of being closed.
The rally, interspersed with rock music, was
one of the largest in years to be attended by
Muscovites grown apathetic after political
passions of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Children waved green balloons with the NTV
logo, young people wore cloth caps that said
"I love NTV," and many people wore stickers
on their lapels that said, "For NTV."
Demonstrators spilled over into adjacent
streets and perched on tree branches.
currently in Spain fighting extradition on fraud
charges, is trying to fend off a takeover
bid by state-dominated gas giant Gazprom. A
shareholders' meeting this week may try
to oust him.
Liberals see the dispute and legal action against NTV,
as a test of Putin's commitment
to press freedom and fair reporting of issues like
Russia's war against separatist
"We know why they want to destroy NTV. So that we will
never know about millions
of dollars being taken out of the country or about how a
war is being conducted with
slogans of fighting terrorism and corruption," Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko
party, told the gathering.
"We know that this is not about fighting terrorists and
corruption but about the fight
for press freedom."
NTV has earned a reputation as a critic of Kremlin
policies, particularly Russia's two
military campaigns against Chechnya. It has accused
Putin of chipping away at
individual freedoms in a little more than a year in
Irina Khakamada, a
the Union of Right
parliament, told the
crowd that they
had to fight
for freedom of the
"We have no license or right to permit this or that channel to work,
but we have our voice and that's why we are out on the streets again
to speak our freedom," she said.
Yevgeny Kiselyov, NTV's general director and
anchor of its flagship news program, said
the station could be closed soon.
"It is very simple — a new management could do anything," he told reporters.
Musicians and athletes also spoke in defense of NTV
during the two-hour gathering in
bright spring sunshine.
The rally had been given wide publicity all week on NTV
and on radio stations and
newspapers in Gusinsky's Media-MOST group.
But the other two national television networks,
state-owned RTR television and ORT
television, ignored the gathering in their Saturday
afternoon news bulletins.
Many rally participants were pleased at the large
"I just wanted to do my bit for NTV," said Maya, a
museum worker in her sixties. "It
was so good to look around at all the faces of people
who had clearly thought about
all these issues."
The original at http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2001/04/02/011.html
Big Rally Defends Russia's Independent NTV Channel
By Ron Popeski
Reuters, Saturday March 31 8:24 AM ET
Thousands Demonstrate in Moscow
The Associated Press
Saturday March 31 7:11 AM ET
Russians Protest for Press Freedom
The Associated Press
Saturday March 31 11:52 AM ET