1,000 rally in Moscow against government control of media

MOSCOW (AP) - More than 1,000 demonstrators rallied in Moscow Sunday to protest against the authorities' efforts to tighten controls over national media.

The protest in downtown Moscow was linked to the fifth anniversary of the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant taking over the NTV television station in what was widely viewed as a Kremlin-orchestrated move to stifle criticism of the government.

Several prominent TV anchors, who lost their jobs amid the authorities' efforts to tighten control over programming, took part in the rally.

"Over the last five years, it became clear that the government only started with NTV and ended up dominating the entire information sector," said Viktor Shenderovich, a prominent NTV program host who was purged from the station by its new owners.

Protesters held posters such as Censorship Today, Dictatorship Tomorrow, Channel One, stop lying! and Take TV remote control away from Putin.

Since President Vladimir Putin's first election in 2000, all countrywide networks have come under tight state control, resulting in blanket positive coverage of government activities and the disappearance of critical reporting.

While print media enjoys considerably more freedom compared to broadcasters, top national newspapers feel the pressure of their owners fearing that critical reports could jeopardize their business interests.


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