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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Should Give Turner His Blessings

"The state has no right to create special conditions for any separate market player. … An agreement with [CNN’s Ted] Turner’s proposals would be an example of state protectionism and a violation of the principles of free competition."

— Alexei Volin, an aide to the prime minister

This has been the spluttering response to media mogul Ted Turner’s offer to keep NTV and its sister media out of Gazprom’s clutches: Apparently if the Kremlin promises not to have NTV’s journalists beaten up or its operations punished should it report critically on the Kremlin, this would constitute "special conditions."

After all, there are "principles of free competition" to consider — and as long as Novaya Gazeta journalists are being beaten up, it would hardly be fair to give special favors to NTV journalists and leave them be.

Turner’s $300 million offer puts Vladimir Putin on the spot. What should he do?

The president can either hide, and with his silence endorse the asinine comments of people like Volin (or Gazprom-Media’s Alfred Kokh, who insists that even if Media-MOST pays off all of the money it owes, it still won’t be free).

Click here to read our Special Reporton the struggle for Media-MOST.

Or the president can step forward and give Turner confirmation that the Kremlin will mostly leave NTV alone once it is debt-free. Turner can purchase stakes in Media-MOST and the money can be used to buy back other stakes from Gazprom. Despite its less-than-immaculate conception, NTV would for the first time be truly and completely private and independent.

Note that Turner is not asking for an end to legal action against NTV founder Vladimir Gusinsky. That is a separate matter. The president does not have to "interfere in the work of the independent prosecutor." He just has to promise not to interfere in the work of an independent television station.

Rarely has there been an easier editorial position for us to take: Putin should give Turner, and Russia, his word.

Putin has never apologized to Radio Liberty’s Andrei Babitsky, the reporter who was pretty much kidnapped by government forces to muzzle his coverage of the war in Chechnya. Instead, Putin has suggested Babitsky got what he deserved for not being enough of a patriot. Nor has Putin ever offered any introspection on how shabbily his FSB treated the environmentalist Alexander Nikitin, another man who questioned the authorities too trenchantly.

We have lots of sorry examples like those of Babitsky and Nikitin. We are still waiting for a better example. Let President Putin set such an example — by setting NTV free.