Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Despite President Putin's statement in the U.S. that he supports press freedom, and notwithstanding the Russian constitution's provision for freedom of the news media, the Kremlin continued to pressure media companies and journalists critical of the regime. Gazprom, the state-owned gas conglomerate, took control of Russia's major independent media group, Media-MOST, by acquiring its NTV television station. Gazprom also closed the newspaper Sevodnya, fired the staff of the weekly Itogi, and took over Ekho Moskvy radio, the last independent outlet of Media-MOST. Many of NTV journalists moved to another independent outlet, TV-6. A court later ruled that the last independent TV station must be liquidated in 2002. In September, Gazprom sold its media outlets. While journalists regarded these steps as press-freedom violations, others saw them as the Kremlin's effort to crack down on oligarchs opposed to the regime. Clearly, however, the Russian public lost access to diverse news and opinions. In outlying regions, news media are mainly dependent on government subsidies and journalists face libel suits and physical harassment intended to intimidate critics. In July, a reporter in the Krasnodar region was thrown from the fourth floor of his home after he received information implicating local authorities in criminal activities. A publisher was shot and killed in the Sverdlosk region after criticizing local authorities. Judicial harassment continued of the journalist who had filmed the pouring of liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan. Private police in Lipetsk took over the regional television station TVK, which had been critical of the region's governor. The Russian military continued to impose severe restrictions on journalists' access to the Chechen war zone, issuing accreditation primarily to those of proven loyalty to the Russian government. Few foreign reporters are allowed into the breakaway republic. The disruptive effects of the war severely hinder news production and the flow of information to the general public.