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#11 - JRL 7129
TV chiefs in Russia's far-east told to slash Hollywood "propaganda"
April 2, 2003

Fed up with movie images of an all-conquering US army, authorities in Russia's far-eastern Maritime region have ordered broadcasters to cut back on Hollywood productions during the US-led invasion of Iraq, local officials said Wednesday.

Regional governor Sergei Darkin "has voiced concern that television companies are broadcasting large numbers of US-made films promoting the rule of force and the invincibility of the US army," a spokesman said, reporting on a meeting of municipal officials late Tuesday.

Darkin ordered local media chiefs to take action "in the sphere of propaganda and anti-propaganda during the Iraqi crisis," the chief of the administration's media relations department Igor Surshkov said.

Officials estimate that some 60 percent of local broadcasts -- including around 1,200 Hollywood movies a year and scores of US-made cartoons -- is pro-American, "all of which is providing grist to America's ideological mill," Surshkov said.

Local media are receiving seminars on "information security during the Iraqi crisis" and are being instructed to assume "personal responsibility in preserving Russia's information freedom," he said.

Surshkov noted that "the news bulletins give way to 'Rambo III', while on the next channel they broadcast a programme about scouting in the US. It's as if we're watching the news on an American channel."

Regional officials are also to step up efforts to stamp out the illegal broadcasting of pirated films by stepping up controls on broadcasting licences, he said.

The broadcasters however greeted the campaign with scepticism, voicing fears that it could be the pretext for the reintroduction of Soviet-style censorship.

An "anti-propapaganda" campaign "may divide the media and the reporters into those who are loyal and those who are not," a local broadcasting official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"In an election year, this is bound to have some effect. It's only a short step from this kind of control to full censorship," he warned, referring to parliamentary elections due in December with a presidential poll scheduled for the following March.

A local journalist, also speaking unattributably, noted that television channels had been broadcasting pirated films for several years without drawing complaints.

"Now we're going to have to replace popular films with old Soviet productions no-one is interested in," he said.

The head of Vostok-TV, Alexander Tkachev, told the daily Izvestia that Russian television "certainly needs state protection," but by means of national television production resources "capable of rivalling the Americans."

Another official raised the possibility that the regional ruling had been proposed by Moscow as an experiment, Izvestia said, adding that the press ministry had denied the suggestion.

Nationwide opinion polls indicate that around 90 percent of Russians are opposed to the US-led military campaign in Iraq.

Russia sided with France and Germany in opposing the action, arguing that the crisis over disarming Iraq could have been resolved by peaceful means.

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