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Gazeta.ru, June 2, 2004

NTV fires anchorman Parfyonov over censorship row

Leonid ParfyonovLeonid Parfyonov, the director and anchorman of the political program Namedni on NTV was fired late Tuesday evening, the channel's web-site reports.

The move comes just one day after Parfyonov aired an interview with the widow of a former Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, violating orders from the channel's management. Russian Special Forces had reportedly ordered NTV's deputy director Alexander Gerasimov not to air the interview, Russian media reported.

"The reason behind his dismissal was that Namedni has been taken off the air in connection with a contract violation on the part of Parfyonov:" reads an official statement from NTV. According to the statement, Parfyonov was responsible for upholding the television station's policy as dictated by the management.

Russia's leading journalists were quick to call the dismissal a "landmark case" in censorship. "In the last four years, authorities have always chosen the worst decision out of two," journalist Yelena Savina told the independent Newsru.com site. "The Kremlin never trusted Parfyonov. We, as newsmen, understand that this serious attack is a warning for us."

The cause of the scandal was a five-minute report on the trial of two Russian special agents in Qatar on charges of killing former Chechen head Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, which included a short, exclusive interview with his wife, Malika. After being aired east of the Ural Mountains in Russia, the report was taken off the air, and not broadcast in European Russia.

In an earlier statement to the Kommersant daily, Parfyonov said that the station's general director Alexander Gerasimov was told by Russian special agents to take the report off the air.

Last year NTV's president Nikolai Senkevich cancelled a piece on Yelena Tregubova, a former Kremlin pool journalist who had written a sensational tell-all memoir "Tales of a Kremlin Digger". NTV planned to air the report on Namedni.

The president also found fault with the television station for "showing the movements of commandos a few minutes before the raid began" at the Nord-Ost theater siege, the Kommersant newspaper reported. Putin went on to inquire: "Why was this kind of thing done? To boost ratings and capitalization, and, in the final analysis, to make money. But not at any price! Not with the blood of our citizens! If, of course, the people who did this consider [those who died] to be their own."

NTV was one of Russia's last privately-owned television networks until 2000, when it was taken over in a debt scandal by the state-owned company Gazprom. The network's journalists protested what they called a seizure, but many of them - such as Parfyonov - remained with the network under the new owners.

44-year-old Parfyonov worked at NTV from 1993. In 1997 he became a member of the channel's board and the general producer.

In 2001, as the Media-Most company owned by billionaire Vladimir Gusinsky battled with the state-owned Gazprom corporation over NTV's ownership, Parfyonov quitted the channel and published an open letter to its head Yevgeniy Kiselev accusing the latter of biased information policy and inflaming hatred among the employees.

After Gazprom finally gained control over NTV Parfyonov returned to the channel and again became a member of the governing board.


See also:

the original at

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

Gazeta.ru, June 2, 2004

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