Russia Moves to Silence Independent Broadcaster

Washington

In response to the decision of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS) and the federal oversight body for telecommunications to withdraw broadcasting licenses of the award-winning channel TV-2 in Tomsk, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The government’s haste and secrecy in silencing Tomsk’s only independent TV station shows that this broadcaster has become inconvenient to the state,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of the Freedom of the Press project at Freedom House. “TV-2 has become known in Tomsk, Russia, and abroad as a regional media outlet providing objective coverage of social, political and economic issues rarely covered by state-owned broadcasters. To lose such a champion is a serious blow to the dwindling freedom of speech in Russia.” 

Background:
TV-2, founded in Tomsk in 1990, was one of the first independent, commercial TV channels in the then-Soviet Russia. It earned a reputation as the only independent media outlet in the strategic Siberian city, reporting on sensitive criminal cases against regional government leaders and conflicts between government officials and business elite, and broadcasting programs promoting historical memory. 

Its broadcasts were suspended for a month in spring 2014 due to technical difficulties of a local division of RTRS, the state monopoly that owns terrestrial air broadcasting facilities across the country; in November 2014, RTRS announced it would not renew TV-2’s contract after its expiration in December. Also, Roskomnadzor, the federal telecommunications agency, reversed its decision to renew its cable broadcasting license until 2025. 

More than 4,000 demonstrators in Tomsk voiced their support for TV-2 on February 1. 

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2014, and received a democracy score of 6.29 on a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2014. 

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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