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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Unchanged For Media, Despite Decree

Plans by President Boris Yeltsin to post guards at key buildings of Russia's news media caused a stir in Moscow on Tuesday, but despite alarm in the West, many Russian journalists said they welcomed the idea.


In a decree released by his press office late Monday, Yeltsin ordered the media to be placed under his direct "protection" and, in a clear reference to his opponents in the conservative legislature, warned state officials and organizations to respect the freedom of the press.


The decree directed the Interior Ministry to take all "necessary measures" to tighten security at television and radio stations, news agencies, and printing facilities. It also ordered the government to continue subsidies for needy national and regional publications, and to set up a special state office to monitor the freedom of the press.


Interior Ministry guards failed to appear Tuesday at Moscow's television and radio stations, and several newspapers also reported no increase in security at their offices.


But journalists at Ostankino, the vast television center that houses the studios of Commonwealth Television, Russian Television and a host of smaller networks, said that Yeltsin's decree would bring them relief from an intense political fight for the airwaves.


"There is always someone trying to get control of television", said Oleg Borisovsky, a producer at Commonwealth news. "It's been chaos here. First you get pushed to the left, then the right".


The country's broadcast media are largely sympathetic to the president and his reforms, and stand to serve as a powerful weapon for Yeltsin in his efforts to convince Russians to support him in a nationwide poll he has announced for April 25.


Parliament has been trying for months to adopt a law regulating television and radio, but conservative and liberal deputies cannot agree on what it should say. Hardliners want to appoint staff and monitor the editorial content of television and radio stations as well as news agencies like Itar-Tass.


Pressure from conservatives has increased steadily since last summer, when they demanded air time in an 11-day siege of the television center.


Mikhail Fedotov, Russia's press and information minister, said Tuesday that Yeltsin's decree was meant to strengthen the guarantees of freedom spelled out in Russia's first press law, which was adopted in December 1991, and would remain in effect until the problem of "parliament's desire to monopolize the mass media" had been resolved.


Moves to post armed guards outside television buildings and print facilities would spark an uproar in the West, but journalists here said the measure would protect them from parliamentary attempts to gain greater control over the media.


Yeltsin has made no move to interfere with the editorial content of the print media, and television journalists said Tuesday that they had felt freer in their work under him.


Meanwhile, a rumor that Yeltsin was planning to close two hardline papers, Sovyetskaya Rossiya and Den, turned out to be false. Those two papers are being sued by the Press and Information Ministry for publishing inflammatory material, but are not being closed, Fedotov said.


Russian journalists said that they were not worried that Yeltsin would introduce censorship.


"You couldn't impose censorship anymore", said Vladimir Nadein, deputy editor of Izvestia. "The trend has moved toward private publication and an open press, which censorship could not control".