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)
In 2003 press freedom continued to suffer as the Russian government exercised extensive control over most broadcast media and pressured the independent media. While the constitution provides for freedoms of speech and of the press, the Putin administration has increasingly restricted these rights in practice, especially regarding sensitive issues such as criticism of the president, the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, and government corruption. Using restrictive legislation and exerting financial pressure through the government and government-related companies, the Kremlin gained nearly total control of the broadcast media in 2003. Opposition political parties were denied equal and balanced coverage in the run-up to parliamentary elections in December. In January 2003, Boris Jordan, director of the largest private national television station, NTV, was sacked by officials from the media arm of the government-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom. Many media analysts attributed the dismissal to NTV's critical coverage of the October 2002 Nord-Ost hostage crisis. In June, the remaining nationwide independent television station, TV Spektrum (TVS), was pulled off the air by the media ministry and replaced by a state-owned sports channel. The parliament passed media legislation in June that granted government authorities broad powers to shut down media outlets accused of printing or broadcasting "biased" political commentary during the elections. While the law was struck down by the Supreme Court in October, "many journalists had already turned to self-censorship, and editors curtailed coverage of the election campaigns to protect themselves from legal action," according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The print media offered Russians some dissenting viewpoints, but the state-controlled and more widespread broadcast media parroted the government line. Independent journalists continue to be harassed, assaulted, kidnapped, and killed. High-profile cases of murdered or kidnapped journalists from previous years remain unresolved. In October, Aleksey Sidorov, editor-in-chief of the daily Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye, was stabbed to death, apparently in response to his paper's courageous investigative reporting on organized crime. The government severely restricted the ability of Russian and foreign journalists to conduct independent reporting on the war in Chechnya. During 2003, Russian government officials repeatedly pressured Estonian and Lithuanian authorities to shut down the Chechen rebel website KavkazCenter.com.