A scandal is flaring in Russia as two segments for popular NTV programme “Unreal Politics” were shot and then blocked by NTV’s management.
The first one subjected the leader of a pro-government youth movement Nashi and the chairman of State Committee for Youth Vasily Yakemenko to criticism. Russia’s own Paris Hilton, Kseniya Sobchak, told the Unreal Politics hosts about her attempts to interview Yakemenko in one of the most expensive restaurants in Moscow. Sobchak failed, but recorded her talk with Yakemenko and then published the interview in the Internet. The video contained her sarcastic comments of how Yakemenko’s supposed expensive tastes doesn’t correspond to his public statements about economy drive.
The second item concerned President Medvedev’s visit to the journalism department of Moscow State University in October. Several students, not satisfied with Medvedev’s policy, were arrested when they trief to hold a protest. The censored piece contained an interview with one of them — Vera Kichanova.
On 7 November Unreal Politics co-host Andrey Kolesnikov said the programme was shut after the two broadcasts had been blocked. “It was my decision, though the channel didn’t have much of a choice after all”, Kolesnikov told journalists. He stressed that the two blocked items were “not blocked, but were simply not acccepted by NTV from a production company”. NTV spokesperson Maria Bezborodova said the channel’s management blocked nothing, “having had no orders for these two items”. Both pieces are available on the web.
Neither Andrey Kolesnikov nor his co-host Tina Kandelaki are famous for their struggles for freedom of expression. Kolesnikov is a member of the Kremlin pool — a group of journalists accredited to cover president’s and top country’s officials activities. He is also the editor-in-chief in “Russian Pioneer” magazine, where he employed Vladimir Putin as a columnist. Kandelaki is the member of state Public Chamber. That is why it’s no surprise that neither of the co-hosts referred to the incident as censorship, agreeing that “the channel’s management if free to decide the programme’s fate”.
NTV, owned by state energy company Gazprom subsidiary, is notorious for its moves to censor programmes. In October a broadcast about kidnappings and tortures in Chechnya was banned by the channel’s management. In May the channel blocked an item about former oligarch and Putin’s opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s cellmate and his assault to Khodorkovsky in prison. In 2004 journalist Leonid Parfenov was fired from NTV after he interviewed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria president’s widow Malika Yandarbieva.