Squeeze on journalists tightening in Russia

Published May 20, 2007

MOSCOW - Eight correspondents have resigned from a Russian broadcast news agency to protest the pro-Kremlin management's decision to withhold stories in line with a new policy that half its coverage must portray the government in a "positive" light, journalists said.

The reported policy by the Russian News Service, which provides news broadcasts to Russia's most popular radio network and runs its own station, heightens concerns over President Vladimir Putin's moves to bring mass media under state control or influence.

In another case highlighting the concerns, the Russian Union of Journalists is protesting an order that it vacate its offices in a building that houses state media operations.

The union said it received the order from the state property agency to make space for Russia Today, an English-language satellite TV channel that critics see as little more than a Kremlin propaganda tool. The union said the order was dated April 18, but delivered only on Tuesday.

Mikhail Baklanov, the Russian News Service's former editor-in-chief who was fired in April by the new managers, confirmed that a number of his colleagues had quit.

"People left because there was no chance to work professionally, " he said. "They weren't able to do what journalists do."