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Vremya Novostei, October 2, 2003

Stick Without a Carrot
Journalists criticized for their coverage of the upcoming elections

By Daria Gusyeva and Maksim Balutenko

The Monitoring Council for the election campaign is not functioning yet, but some political parties are on the verge of recalling their representatives from this structure. The Communist Party (CPRF) is one such party, according to Vadim Soloviov, its representative to the Council. The Communists intend to withdraw from the Council and from the treaty among political parties that led to the establishment of the Council in the first place. The Election 2003 treaty, also known as a "non-aggression pact", was signed by all political parties (except for Yabloko) running for the Duma.

The Communist move is attributable to the party's displeasure with the Council's response to Gennadi Seleznev's complaint about a story broadcast on the Vesti TV program on September 3. Zyuganov is convinced that by covering the Moscow International Book Fair, the Rossiia channel "launched an official propagandistic campaign against the CPRF in utter defiance of the law and instructions released by the Central Electoral Commission." Experts from the Council failed to find any incriminating evidence in the work of Vesti correspondents. The Council ruled, however, that the correspondents in questions could and should have been more tactful, and sent Zyuganov's complaint to the Union of Journalists and National Association of TV and Radio Broadcasters.

Discussions in the Monitoring Council continue against the background of a conflict between journalists and the Central Electoral Commission. A working group for information disputes of the Moscow Election Commission has already found some periodicals guilty of violating the new legislation. The matter concerns Kommersant-Vlast magazine and the Tverskaya, 13 weekly that ran some articles on the performance of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The articles offered contrasting viewpoints. The Moscow Election Commission decided against an appeal to the Media Ministry that would have resulted in official warnings. It merely sent cables to Kommersant-Vlast and Tverskaya, 13 saying that such articles were unacceptable.

Regional election commissions are not that benevolent. According to our sources, regional election commission in Kaliningrad have already issued 18 (!) warnings to local newspapers and TV channels. Bryansk election commission issued warnings to local newspapers Desnitsa (for an interview with Igor Artemiev, candidate for the Duma from Yabloko), Bryanskiye Vesti and Bryansky Perekrestok (for publication of results of opinion polls they had organized).

The Central Electoral Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov defends his regional colleagues. "In my view, journalists are irked that they cannot make as much money from elections as they used to in the past," he said.


See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

State Duma Elections 2003

Vremya Novostei, October 2, 2003

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