Posted: August 9, 2005
Andrei Babitsky, ABC
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
The Foreign Ministry announced steps to bar the U.S. television network ABC from reporting in Russia. The ministry said in a statement that ABC reporters had been denied access to government officials and that their accreditations will not be renewed when they expire. Russian authorities took the steps after the network broadcast an interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev on its news program, "Nightline," on July 28.
"ABC is undesirable for contact with all Russian government organizations and bodies," the ministry's statement said. It criticized the Basayev interview as "clearly supporting the propaganda of terrorism" with "calls for violence against Russian citizens."
"Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel said that "broadcasting an interview with someone does not imply any sort of approval of that person or his actions."
The announcement came two days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared that ABC reporters were "persona non grata" in his ministry, according to local and international news reports. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry issued a formal complaint to the U.S. embassy's charge d'affaires in Moscow, Daniel Russell.
Basayev has taken responsibility for many violent actions, including the deadly September 2004 attack on a school in Beslan that claimed the lives of 330 hostages. Russian authorities have offered a $10 million reward for his capture.
The interview was conducted by Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky, who has been persecuted by Russian authorities over his reporting on the war in Chechnya. The Foreign Ministry, which monitors the work of foreign media in Russia, said today that it would also investigate Babitsky for allegedly conducting the interview in Chechnya in June without proper accreditation.
Babitsky said the Kremlin's strong response was prompted by the failure of Russian authorities to capture Basayev. "The security services are embarrassed because they have spent vast sums over six years but they still can't catch Basayev, and here he is talking to a journalist. ...This shows how ineffectively they are working," Babitsky told the Reuters news service.