Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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Russian media sign document curbing reporting rights 
April 9, 2003

The heads of Russia's main media outlets Tuesday signed an agreement curbing 
their right to report on crisis situations such as last October's Moscow 
hostage taking, for which authorities received sharp criticism from the 

The signatories included state-owned television networks ORT and Rossiya, 
independent news agency Interfax and the Echo of Moscow radio station, and 
the ceremony was attended by Russian Information minister Mikhail Lesin, 
Interfax reported. The agreement, titled "anti-terrorist convention," bans 
journalists from interviewing "terrorists," from allowing "terrorists" to go 
on air live without asking the authorities for permission and from acting as 
negotiators in a crisis situation. 

It states that "during a terrorist action and an anti-terrorist operation, 
people's safety, human rights and the right to life take precedence over all 
other rights and liberties." 

The agreement incorporates a number of measures included in proposed 
legislation that Russian President Vladimir Putin vetoed last November. 

The legislation had been rushed through Russia's parliament in the wake of 
last October's hostage crisis that saw local media criticize the government's 
decision to use a deadly poison gas that killed many civilian hostages held 
captive by Chechen guerrillas in a Moscow theater. 

At least 129 civilians died in the standoff, most of them poisoned by the gas 
pumped into the theater before the raid. 

The Kremlin later expressed its disapproval over the decision of some Russian 
media organisations to air interviews with Chechen hostage-takers and leaders 
in the separatist republic, and for showing footage of how elite troops 
stormed the building. 
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