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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Hooligans' Run Amuck In Media

Vladimir Putin granted an interview last month to Canadian media and was asked, predictably, about press freedoms. The president replied, predictably, he was all for them. He then complained that when he watches television or reads the newspapers these days, some of the reporting strikes him as "hooliganism." He then said that was probably a bad word choice and retracted it, then added that some of that reporting was nevertheless "uncivilized."

It was a classic Putin performance: Insist on a dedication to democracy and to a vibrant press, but speak louder with his actions.

As far as we know, the president has never said a word about Oleg Luriye, the crusading Novaya Gazeta reporter who had his face slashed with a razor last month. Luriye had specialized in working the Swiss angles of the so-called Mabetex case, a probe into whether Putin's former Kremlin boss, Pavel Borodin, laundered money abroad. Nor have we ever heard the Kremlin say much about the beatings, within days of Luriye's disfigurement, of two other Novaya Gazeta contributors — journalists from Ryazan who had explored the bizarre "training exercise" there in September 1999.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.For those who don't remember, shortly after two Moscow apartment buildings blew up, Ryazan law enforcement announced it had defused a terrorist bomb in an apartment block — only to be told a day later the entire thing had been a Moscow-planned false alarm to keep them on their toes. Many found this pretty fishy — and indeed, NTV television's well-known problems began in earnest after it pitted lame-sounding FSB officials against indignant Ryazan residents in an hourlong talk show.

This week, NTV and CNN founder Ted Turner coyly revealed they are flirting. Within 24 hours, prosecutors had descended on NTV's parent Media-MOST company for yet another punitive raid. Meanwhile, the Gazprom arm that has been so busily twisting Media-MOST's arm over debts spoke out angrily against an NTV-Turner marriage.

We are all bored by now with the NTV-Kremlin two-step. Even NTV employees say privately they just want it to be over one way or another.

But however it ends, President Putin must not be allowed to edit himself out of the picture. NTV and Gazprom got along fine right up until the day Gazprom's CEO was summoned to the Kremlin. Ever since, there's been a raft of "business disputes" launched by Kremlin-controlled structures — a charade capped by startlingly zealous prosecutors, and then by Vladimir Gusinsky's release from jail in return for signing away his company in the presence of the press minister.

Is this "business," or state hooliganism?