TV anchor taken off air for critical news reporting

New York, November 28, 2005—Moscow-based Ren-TV has taken news anchor Olga Romanova off the air after she criticized the privately owned station for censoring her news coverage. Romanova said three security guards prevented her from entering the TV station on November 24 to host her evening news program “24,” according to local and international news reports.

Romanova said her program was dropped shortly after she publicly criticized Ren-TV management for blocking reports that they believed might anger the Kremlin. One such story was the decision by authorities not to prosecute the son of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov for killing an elderly pedestrian in a car accident in May, Romanova told the private Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy.

Ren-TV director general Aleksandr Ordzhonikidze said in interviews that Romanova had been dropped not because of her news reporting but low ratings. Romanova said she did not believe authorities were responsible for her dismissal and that Ordzhonikidze was “simply doing the best he can to please the Kremlin,” The Moscow Times reported.

Ordzhonikidze was appointed Ren-TV general director in early November, a month after two companies close to the Kremlin—oil company Surgutneftegaz and steelmaker Severstal—completed their joint purchase of a 70 percent stake in the station.

Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed concern about the action taken against Romanova. “Previous actions taken by the Putin government against critical reporting in the broadcast media have created a chilling environment in which this kind of self-censorship by media companies has become common,” Cooper said.