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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Censorship Claims Hit Private Radio Network

Journalists at one of the country's biggest private radio networks said Wednesday that they had been told to keep Kremlin critics off the air by new managers parachuted in from state-run television.

Managers at Russian News Service -- which provides news to Russkoye Radio, the country's most listened-to radio station, and its sister stations -- denied they were imposing censorship.

But staff said their new bosses had blocked live reports from opposition protests over the weekend and blacklisted opposition leader Garry Kasparov from being mentioned on air.

New managers at the service were also urging journalists to give more airtime to representatives of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, staff said.

"It was clearly stated to us at a staff meeting that Garry Kasparov ... and others like him are has-beens and they are not of interest to our listeners, therefore we do not talk about them," one journalist said.

"People are looking for [other] work," said the journalist, who did not want to be identified.

Entries posted by other staff members on a blog at echoed the journalist's account about the new policy.

Two of the new managers, including the general director, came from state-run Channel One television.

New general director Alexander Shkolnik dismissed talk of a blacklist of opposition politicians as "stupidity."

"There are only three criteria: that [coverage] should be current, interesting and not of an extremist character," he said. "The whole political spectrum will be represented."

Asked about Kasparov, he said: "If he does not voice extremist slogans then we will let him on the air."

Russian News Service has always been cautious in its coverage of the Kremlin. But former general director Mikhail Baklanov -- who submitted his resignation a week ago -- said news coverage was now clearly skewed in favor of United Russia.

"We did not have that before," he said. "It certainly was not the station of one party alone."