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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Urged to Veto Media Bill

In an unusual display of solidarity, the country's media petitioned President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to veto restrictive amendments to the media law and promised to swiftly develop an effective code of behavior during emergencies.

Putin has until next Wednesday to sign or veto the bill, which parliament adopted shortly after last month's hostage crisis in Moscow. Journalists fear that, if applied broadly, the bill will ban any discussion of the Chechen war or other conflicts and prohibit media from analyzing the government's actions in crises.

Managers representing state and nonstate media and competing unions of journalists said Wednesday that they understood the responsibility that reporters have in times of crises.

"We agree that some actions by journalists and the mass media during the latest terrorist act in Moscow were incorrect," said the appeal, which was carried by Interfax. "But these were mistakes and not a conscious disregard for the dangers that these actions could pose. To be fair, the media's mistakes were in part caused by the flaws of the government bodies that carried out the anti-terrorist operation in their contacts with mass media."

Among the petition's 23 signatories were Channel One television head Konstantin Ernst; Oleg Dobrodeyev, the head of VGTRK, which runs Rossia and Kultura; Raf Akopov, the No. 2 at NTV; Alexei Venediktov of Ekho Moskvy radio; Mikhail Komissar of Interfax; Mikhail Kozhokin of Izvestia; and Pavel Gusev of Moskovsky Komsomolets. Representatives of the Media Union, the Union of Journalists and the Glasnost Defense Foundation also signed the petition.

The signatories said crisis rules have to be concrete -- not open to broad interpretation -- and oblige both media and special forces to interact during emergencies. The rules, which the media community has begun to develop, would govern all emergencies."The faster we create such rules, the easier it will be for the media themselves to operate, and the public will benefit quicker," said Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, who has lobbied media leaders to come up with a consolidated position on the issue.

"For the first time in my memory, all media got together and developed a common platform," Venediktov said on Channel One. Venediktov said last week that media leaders would ask to meet with Putin and offer him an alternative to the bill.

Dobrodeyev said the crisis guidelines are a sensitive issue that will take time to hammer out. "Such issues are not solved by a cavalry attack in two to three days," he told Interfax.

Separately Wednesday, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and the head of the presidential human rights commission, Ella Pamfilova, also appealed to Putin not to sign the bill.