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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Press Minister to Protect State

The head of the new Press Ministry said in an interview published Thursday that the state must be protected from a free press, though he insisted that the government would not try to impose censorship or editorial control.

Mikhail Lesin didn't explain the apparent contradiction in his remarks during an interview with Kommersant newspaper.

"There is no doubt that mass media today have a lot more ways to influence the state than the other way round,'' Lesin said. "That is why protection of the state from free mass media is a very pressing issue today.''

Yet he repeatedly stated in the interview that the government wouldn't try to restrict media freedom. "I consider it wrong to use some kind of levers on the media if somebody doesn't like what they broadcast,'' Lesin said. "It is obvious that we have no right to interfere with media that are independent of the state."

Lesin's remarks are likely to sound ominous to the country's independent press, which has been worried about losing its freedom since the creation of the new ministry early this month.

President Boris Yeltsin has resisted the temptation to censor even those media organizations that criticize him relentlessly. But with parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote next summer, political forces appear to be vying for control over newspapers and television stations.