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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parliament Scores Win Over Media

Hardliners in the Russian parliament won a partial victory over the liberal media Thursday, when the Constitutional Court declared that they have the right to monitor state television and radio programming.

But the court, in a mixed ruling, also said that a resolution by the Congress of People's Deputies to restrict the broadcast media had been adopted and published unconstitutionally, according to Interfax.

The 13 justices had been asked to examine a resolution which called for parliament to set up "observation councils" to ensure "freedom of speech" on the country's airwaves.

The resolution was brought to the congress floor in late March by hardline deputies who accused the government of using broadcast media such as Commonwealth Television and the Russian State Television Company as its mouthpiece to promote radical reforms.

The resolution had also called for the dissolution of the Federal Information Center, a government news service established in December by a decree from President Boris Yeltsin.

Press and Information Minister Mikhail Fedotov said that only Yeltsin, and not the court, had the right to dissolve the Federal Information Center. He added that he was "dispirited by the fact that the Constitutional Court has no stable legal practice and constantly changes its position".

The resolution was just one of many that hardline conservative deputies, who control one-third of the votes in the Congress, have tried in the last year to push through both the full legislature and the smaller standing parliament as they attempt to bring the media under their control.

Their demands have also stalled a law regulating television and radio, which Russia doesn't yet have.

Sergei Yushenkov, a liberal legislator and deputy chief of the Federal Information Center, admitted in a recent press conference that the government does exercise "some control" over some state-run broadcast media, "but not in the sense of restricting freedom of speech".

Challenging the hardliner's claim that the broadcast media is biased, he said that an analysis of television programming aired in the days before an April 25 vote of confidence in the president had shown "dialogue between the opposition to and supporters of the president". Most of the political programming on Commonwealth Television had supported the president, he said, while most of that on Russian Television had been turned over to Yeltsin's opponents.

It was not immediately clear whether the court's decision meant that the resolution would stand or not, but parliament hardliners immediately declared victory.

"We are very happy that the idea of observation councils was proven constitutional", said Mikhail Astafyev, a leader of the Russian Unity bloc. "Now the Supreme Soviet has the right to change the law on the mass media".

But Oleg Slabynko, general director of Commonwealth Television, said the parliament resolution reflected the larger political fight between the president and parliamentary opponent and that he doubted the parliament resolution would have its desired effect.

"The court's decision is completely mixed", he said in a telephone interview. "The deputies are trying to take TV for themselves, but I don't think anything will happen at all".