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RIA Novosti threatens legal action over censorship allegations

File Photo of Duma in Full Session
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A storm is brewing at state-owned agency RIA Novosti, after a former non-staff employee accused the agency of "censorship."

He said the agency was seeking to curb reports critical of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party ahead of key elections, prompting the agency to threaten a court case. Grigory Okhotin, a former weekend editor of RIA's foreign press translation service, Inosmi.ru, claimed in a personal blog Monday that he had been asked by a senior employee to limit or "soften" material critical of Putin and United Russia ahead of elections to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Sunday. He described this request as censorship.

Okhotin's charge was circulated widely in the Russian blogosphere and was picked up by Russian and foreign media outlets. Okhotin later resigned.

To the courts

RIA Novosti's editor-in-chief Svetlana Mironyuk said the company was studying its options for taking legal action, stating that, "RIA Novosti is prepared to defend its reputation in court and compel Grigory Okhotin to retract the dishonest accusation he has spread."

Mironyuk said RIA Novosti had always remained committed to the principles of free speech adding that it was "enshrined in our internal company documents. At the same time we define our internal editorial policy not only in accordance with the information picture of the day, but with the demands of the law.

"News coverage of the electoral campaign is determined by legislation and has a number of limitations which we strictly adhere to," she said.

Following the rules

RIA Novosti, which publishes The Moscow News, continued to say in a news report that it is bound to observe the rules of the Electoral Commission and not campaign for or against any political party.

"Furthermore, in the weeks before the election there are severe limitations on media coverage," the RIA Novosti news report said. "So late last week and early this week all structural units of RIA Novosti in charge of the production and distribution of content have been warned to take special care...And of the need to provide a balanced approach."

Tom Washington contributed to this report.


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