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#13 - JRL 7243
The Independent (UK)
June 27, 2003
LETTER: Putin's crackdown

Sir: In your discussion of President Putin's state visit and his policies (leading article, 24 June) you have glossed over an important theme. At midnight on Sunday 22 June Mr Putin's government closed down TVS, Russia's last independent TV channel. No legal reasons for the action existed; none were offered. This was the final act in Mr Putin's three- year campaign against independent mass-media in Russia and for the reintroduction of censorship.

When Vladimir Putin was elected President in 2000 Russia had three independent terrestrial TV channels. Now, as the country prepares to enter a new electoral cycle, not one is left. ORT was quietly taken over by the state in September 2000, NTV seized in April 2001, TV6 unlawfully shut down in January 2002. Now, with the closure of TVS (the successor to TV6), Russia becomes the only country in the G8 without a single TV channel not controlled by the government. Mr Putin has destroyed a basic tenet of democracy - freedom of the media.

Whilst the US State Department issued, albeit not very prominently, a condemnation of the Russian government's action over TVS, the British government is offering Mr Putin the lavish royal receptions of a state visit. One cannot help but question the appropriateness of this.

UK bureau chief, `Kommersant' newspaper, Guildford, Surrey

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