Saturday, July 08, 2006

RFE/RL and VOA Broadcasts Curtailed in Russia

AP reports that Russian authorities have drastically curtailed the number of domestic radio stations broadcasting programs of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America:
News of the restrictions comes amid growing criticism about the state of democracy under President Vladimir Putin and a week before Russia hosts a summit of leaders from the world's wealthiest democracies.

Some European and U.S. lawmakers have called for Putin's government to be taken to task for closing down media outlets and squeezing opposition groups.

Russian officials say the matter is simply one of stations' conforming with their broadcast licenses.

But radio station owners said the restrictions close down an essential source of information, particularly in far-flung regions where media outlets are fewer than in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

"In Moscow, there's still freedom in some sense. But in the regions, freedom has ended. There is none," said Boris Mazin, programming manager for a broadcast holding company in Kazan, about 450 miles east of Moscow.

Between May 2005 and May 2006, the number of stations broadcasting programming by Radio Liberty fell from 30 to "no more than a handful," according to Jeffrey Trimble, the service's acting president. For Voice of America, the 42 affiliates that used its programs in August 2005 has dwindled to just five.
Update: The IHT has C.J. Chivers' story on the subject here.
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