NTV's move to sack Leonid Parfyonov and close his flagship
weekly Namedni review program is politically motivated, Russian politicians,
political observers and human rights champions are convinced. Some of
them interviewed by Gazeta.Ru believe that with Parfyonov's departure
the NTV team of journalists is likely to fall apart.
Irina Khakamada, former co-leader of the liberal Union of the
Right-Wing Forces, founder of the new Free Russia party:
Of course, [by firing Parfyonov] the station has got rid of a disagreeable,
yet talented journalist. Since the channel wanted high ratings Parfyonov
used to get away with being disagreeable. But the conflict brought about
by the channel management's decision move to cancel a piece on Yandarbiyev's
widow and a piece on Putin's state of the nation address prompted Parfyonov
to openly protest.
For the time being, it has led to Parfyonov's resignation. But I feel
that a general tendency will prevail and everyone should understand that.
We have such a system in the making anyone ready to push too hard will
disappear more quickly. Just as they danced on the bones of the democrats,
of the old NTV, TV6 and TVS channels, the authorities will soon dispose
of the few freethinking journalists who still work at NTV and the Ekho
Moskvi radio station.
Those who oppose that pressure can do very little other than continue
the fight or leave the country. If we give up fighting we will all go.
Clearly, the authorities have forced everyone to toe the line. Parfyonov,
for his part, was not just a presenter, he was the deputy news editor
and together with Tatiana Mitkova he produced the Strana I Mir (The Country
and the Wold) nightly news program.With his dismissal the channel will
lose the concept and traditions that have been there since the days of
the old NTV.
I am not sure that Tatiana [Mitkova] will cope alone. I don't think
anyone can cope alone, and the team will most likely fall apart. And what
we will get is just another state-run television channel, which is very
Mark Urnov, political scientist:
Parfyonov's dismissal is partially a result of censorial pressure and
partially an internal conflict over influence at the station. Relations
at NTV were quite complicated.
When the management asks Parfyonov not to publish the piece and he complies,
but then the material appears in other media outlets, that amounts to
a clear conflict for influence and for one's position, no matter how the
parties portray it. It is the easiest thing to say that this amounts to
administrative pressure of a censorial nature.
In itself, the row over the coverage of such a sensitive foreign affairs
issue as the Yandarbiyev case does not speak for anything. Parfyonov may
have his own opinion on the trial. While the trial is still going on,
everyone is very careful. That is why this particular case is unlikely
to set a precedent.
It is clear that these developments are very bad for the channel. When
one of the two political programs is closed, that kills the channel. The
loss of the information reported in Namedni is a great loss for television
as a whole.
deputy chairman of the Yabloko party:
This amounts to a vivid manifestation of political censorship, so-called
punitive censorship. This puts an end to the dispute on whether media
freedoms exist in Russia. Henceforth, it will no longer be easy for NTV
to feign independence, while for the authorities it will be hard to feign
that they guarantee media freedoms in Russia.
Following this case things will only get worse. Mostly, that will lead
to a toughening of internal censorship in various media outlets, both
on television and radio stations and in printed media.
At the same time one should not expect any abrupt actions from the authorities;
they are unlikely to take a particular stand on the issue. Everything
will be done by the top managers at the media outlets themselves, and
more or less independent journalists will have to work in increasingly
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, prominent human rights activist, chairperson
of the Moscow Helsinki Group:
What we see today is that there are labor disputes, but those disputes
concern the liberal-minded programs and editions. Has anyone ever heard
of any labor disputes at the Zavtra newspaper? Nothing of the kind.
To begin with they closed Pyotr Tosltoi's Vyvody program on the third
channel. Aleksander Puhskov and his weekly show with anti-Western tinge
remains. When asked why Vyvody was cancelled, they said it was not profitable.
That is, a pro-democratic program does not make a profit, but a nationalist
one does. And Namedni was closed in the same manner.
Now that Parfyonov has gone our TV sets might as well remain switched
off. What is there left worth watching? Maybe, Vladimir Pozner's [Vremena]
program at ORT? Or Savik Shuster's [Svoboda Slova] show, where Zhirinovsky
features more often than decent people?
State Duma deputies mourn Namedni, but its speaker prefers Vremya Most
State Duma deputies interviewed by the Interfax news agency said they
were sorry to see Leonid Parfyonov leave NTV and his Namedni show cancelled.
The only exception was the chairman of the lower house Boris Gryzlov,
who said he had always preferred ORT's Vremya to Namedni. "As to
Parfyonov's program proper, I watch the Vremya program that runs at the
same time on Sundays," he told journalists.
Gryzlov does not believe Parfyonov's dismissal was a consequence of
censorship: "NTV is a privately-owed channel and there is a body
which, in line with the civil code, is authorized to make decisions in
a privately owned company."
Unlike her boss, first deputy speaker Lyubov Sliska
liked watching Parfyonov's program. "Nobody denies that the Namedni
program was sharp and interesting and NTV is considered a very free channel
in our country but one must respect the management of one's company. A
boss is a boss," Sliska said.
Deputy and journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein was the
only one of the United Russia faction who spoke of political motives in
the NTV row. "The freedom of the press cannot be forced to conform
to a military charter. One may like or dislike Parfyonov, but one cannot
deny that his program was one of the most professional programs on television
and its closure will deal a tangible blow to the Kremlin's reputation,"
Members of the opposition parties represented in the State Duma were
unanimous in their evaluation of the latest events at NTV as a form of
censorship. "The decision of the NTV management clearly was made
under pressure from the Kremlin, which continues the course for establishing
dictatorship not only in the state-owned mass media but also in those
that are more or less independent," said deputy chairman of the Communist
Party's Central Committee Ivan Melnikov.
Motherland's Sergei Baburin added: "Parfyonov's
dismissal is a political action, which proves that controls are becoming
tighter. Observers, who have a special opinion, are being pushed as far
as possible from television and radio audiences. I am very disappointed
with what the state structures are doing to television and radio. That
is dangerous for the public."
of Speech and Media Law in Russia