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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Government Refutes Charges of Censorship

Piqued by accusations of censorship, President Boris Yeltsin's government on Thursday eased its blockade of the parliament building to allow a trickle of journalists into the White House.


The president's press service also came out with a strong denial that it has imposed censorship as criticism of its limitations on coverage, especially on television, mounted in both the domestic and foreign press.


Small groups of mostly foreign reporters accompanied by Interior Ministry officials were permitted throughout the day to pass through police cordons surrounding the White House. When police refused access to the White House to reporters this week, foreign correspondents added their voices to the protest.


Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Postfactum news agency, resigned after charging that state-run television and radio were refusing to run the agency's reports, especially from the far-flung provinces where reaction to Yeltsin's decree has been mixed.


Even the state-run Russian television criticized the president on Thursday.


"Yeltsin risks losing the trust of journalists because the path to the White House is blocked off", a commentator on the news program Vesti said.


Immediately after Yeltsin dismissed parliament and called elections last week the state-run television failed to report parliament's response - impeachment of the president and the appointing of Vice President Alexander Rutskoi as acting president. Also television failed to run speeches by Rutskoi and parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov in response to Yeltsin's actions.


The protest has apparently been heard by the Yeltsin administration, which is trying to avoid appearances of a crackdown on its own citizens. The president's press service, denying the censorship charge, said in a statement: "The right to express their own view is enjoyed both by those who back the measures of the president and those who reject them".


The statement backed its contention by pointing out that such hardline opposition newspapers as Sovetskaya Rossiya, Den and Pravda continue to publish and the rabidly anti-Yeltsin television news program 600 Seconds continues to broadcast.


But the parliament newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, has been shut down by Yeltsin.


Parliament supporters have set up a makeshift White House news agency that sends occasional reports from parliament by fax.


Recently, it appears that television coverage has become slightly more balanced. Commonwealth television on Thursday showed pictures from within the White House and footage of clashes Wednesday night between riot police and pro-parliament demonstrators.


Foreign Correspondent's Association president Adib Al-Sayyed bristled at the presidential press service's explanation that the press had been restricted from the White House for safety reasons.


"Many of our colleagues have covered civil wars in Tajikistan and other hot spots in the former Soviet Union", Sayyed said. "We are aware that is dangerous, but that should not be a reason not to allow us to do our work".


The dangers of being inside the White House appear to have increased as the 100 legislators and 500 defenders grow increasingly edgy after 10 days of siege.


The journalists let into the White House Thursday were able to move freely around once inside the building. But a reporter from Segodnya who managed to sneak past police lines late Wednesday night painted a grim picture.


The reporter, who asked not to be identified, said he was detained, questioned and searched for weapons by paramilitary White House guards. He was then placed under armed guard in the building's sixth floor snack bar.


Any movement - even to the bathroom - was prevented by the guards who forced the reporter back at gunpoint, he said.


The guards refused to let the reporter leave Thursday morning until he said he threatened to call his bureau to say that he had been taken hostage.