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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Should Shed Its TV Monopoly

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On Feb. 15, 2000, Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev unexpectedly began spouting forth to reporters his views on NTV. "As the head of Gazprom and as a citizen," Vyakhirev said, "I do not consider the position of the NTV leadership on the Chechnya problem entirely correct."

On a roll, he went on to say that NTV's coverage of Chechnya gave Gazprom "serious reason" to rethink its media policy since — and here is the kicker — Gazprom's interests "obviously cannot contradict the interests of the state."

Fourteen months later, Gazprom has destroyed NTV. In what it claims is an effort to preserve the value of the shares that it should never have acquired, Gazprom has managed to chase off any investors who might have helped the company recoup its money. Sadly, it appears, Gazprom — whose interests "obviously cannot contradict the interests of the state" — will be forced to hang on to this money-loser.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

We've said it before, but it bears repeating. NTV was a seriously compromised station that repeatedly and shamelessly betrayed its public trust in the past and right up until this weekend's takeover. Its self-serving journalistic sins were all the more pernicious because of its high production values and slick presentation.

But now is not the time to join the chorus of Kremlin spokespeople and surrogates denouncing the crimes of 1996 or 1997 or 1999. Such talk serves only one purpose — to distract attention from the Kremlin's crime against the Russian people, carried out at 4 a.m. on April 14, 2001. That crime is all the more pernicious because it was done on behalf of those who have been entrusted to safeguard the public interest.

Television personality Vladimir Pozner, who earned respect by stating on television two weeks ago that he had been too frightened to speak up for democracy during the August 1991 coup, told journalists before the takeover: "NTV is not without sin. But it is not dependent on the state. In Russia, that is already something special."

In objecting to the cynical destruction of NTV as a private media outlet, we are not defending NTV so much as defending ourselves as citizens and our rights. We have seen what a state television monopoly in this country is like and we don't want it. Such a monopoly is inconsistent with democracy and with the dignity and safety of the Russian people. It is inconsistent with free-market reform and economic development. It is inconsistent with the rule of law. The government must divest itself of this monopoly immediately.