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Critical show taken off the air; broadcast regulator terminates NTV and RTR programming to several villages

(GDF/IFEX) - In the Republic of Khakassia, problems began piling up for journalists after a recent administration reshuffle. The Abakan-based news agency Chance On-Line has reported that Alexei Kirichenko's analytical show "Kiricheshki" was taken off the air on TNT-Abakan on 15 December 2008 in connection with the appointment of a new governor, Viktor Zimin.

The weekly show used to ironically comment on the republic's political life and administration activities. But now, according to Kirichenko, his channel's managers are dissatisfied with the programme's content. After he declined to revise his show's 15 December edition, it was banned for broadcast because of criticism of the actions of Khakassia's new leader, Chance On-Line says.

TNT-Abakan is part of the municipal media holdings of IRTA-Abakan, which is controlled and financed by the mayor's office of the republic's capital. According to IRTA general director Dmitry Chechurov, the media holding has a founder-approved set of information standards which all the constituent media outlets must follow.

The contents of the "Kiricheshki" show may have been at odds with those standards, Chechurov said, stressing that the channel's management would not insist on the programme's closure if its producer had agreed to work as required by the founder.

According to sources in the Abakan mayor's office and the government of Khakassia, "Kiricheshki" was suspended on Governor Zimin's orders. While local observers stress that Zimin's predecessor, Alexei Lebed, was never seen exerting pressure on the media, the question arises as to whether the show's closure was only a disappointing episode or a signal of the new administration's intention to build its relations with the media on a different basis.

The Glasnost Defense Foundation will follow the developments in Khakassia closely.

In a separate incident in the Sverdlovsk Region, Vladimir Golubev, GDF's staff correspondent in the Ural Federal District, reported that at the insistence of the regional department of RosKomSvyazNadzor (the federal service supervising the media and public communications), the RTR and NTV channels' broadcasts have been terminated in the villages of Sosva, Puksinka, Lopatkovo, Krutorechka and Andryushino, leaving local residents with only Channel One and Regional TV programmes still available. Channel One and Regional TV, however, are difficult to tune in to.

The termination of the RTR and NTV services was reported to the regional Human Rights Ombudsperson, Tatyana Merzlyakova, by Sosva resident Yuri Shevchuk, who sees the termination of RTR broadcasts as an encroachment on the public's right to be informed. RTR has broadcast to Sosva and the adjacent villages since 1990 using transmitters purchased by AB-239, a correctional facility within the Federal Penitentiary System.

Merzlyakova, who is also secretary of the regional Journalists' Union board, supported Shevchuk's protest. She maintains that radio frequency spectrum and transmitter licensing problems should be resolved according to normal business practices without restricting people's information sources.

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