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Stricter law adopted but no punishment for terrorism coverage



: www.kavkaz-center.org




: Natalia Rostova  : www.kavkaz-center.org

On Friday the State Duma approved at the 3rd reading amendments to the law on mass media, envisaging substantial restrictions on media coverage of terrorist acts. On the eve of the 3rd reading, the first deputy press minister Mikhail Seslavinsky shared his views on the new bill with Gazeta.Ru


What is the Press Ministrys standpoint on the law on mass media currently being reviewed by the lower house? And what does your agency consider the most important aspect that needs regulating?

There are several problems in the law, which have grown to impede the development of the media industry and which require clarification. Firstly, this is the clear-cut delimitation of powers between the owner and the founder of a media outlet, editorial staff, broadcaster, or publisher.

At the moment, one often comes across people who are doing business with a media outlet, and do not know whom to appeal to, who is in charge of what whether its the founder, the editor, the publisher, or the broadcaster One of the top priority tasks is to introduce order in that respect.

Another problem is that the effective provisions of the media law to some extent impeded the technological development of television broadcasting. Broadcasting has long stopped being based solely on the analogue type. Now we have cable TV and satellite broadcasting. It is also vital to simplify licensing procedures for multimedia and digital formats.

Other problems pertain to the procedure of forming the federal tender commission, determining a one-off fee for broadcasting that would suit everyone and the extension of licences. We believe that the industry together with the ministry should work out those principles.

Is a separate law on public television and radio broadcasting needed?

It is impossible to provide for every peculiarity of the various forms of television in one law on mass media. Why, for that matter, did the previous law on television and radio broadcasting cease to exist? Because we tried to create a law regulating everything including public broadcasting, state broadcasting, a procedure for forming a supervisory board and federal tender commission regulations.

Then the deputies submitted so many amendments that the bill was returned at the 1st reading and rejected. We believe that the law on public television must exist separately. But it must be drawn up by [media] industry representatives.

What kind of sanctions will be imposed on media outlets following your inquiry into the terror attack coverage?

None. There will be no inquiry and we plan no punishment for those guilty. On Friday we will ask the Industrial Committee to review the issue of ethical norms of conduct for journalists in emergency situations at its session. The next session is to be held within ten days. One should look forward, not back.

And is the Ministry ready to assume responsibility for safeguarding journalists from the attacks from other quarters, namely in connection with the recent events? For instance, the State Duma intends to review the amendments to the law on mass media envisaging restrictions on media activities?

Nobody has that exclusive right and neither has the ministry. Nobody can say: ''Only we will deal with that subject.'' The State Duma has certain powers, the same with the Federation Council. That is why we cannot say that nobody has the power to discuss that problem, except the Ministry.

Okay, let me put it another way. Is the ministry ready to lobby the interests of the media industry?

Of course, it is.

What, in your opinion, will the relations be like between the authorities and the press in these new circumstances, in the wake of the terrorist attack?

I dont think they will change considerably.

You have said that during the hostage crisis the Ministry interacted with the directors of media outlets. What kind of interaction was it apart from that connected with the use of force? [Note: in the wake of the crisis the Press Ministry unplugged the Moskovia Channel for an alleged breach of media regulations, and threatened to close several other media outlets.]

There was personal interaction between the Ministry bosses and media directors.

What kind of recommendations did media outlets receive from you?

Various

What provisions of the law did you follow when applying sanctions to certain media outlets?

Provisions of the law on combating terrorism and of Article 4 of law on mass media. If the conflict had not been solved we would have applied the usual procedure: one warning, second warning, a court ruling and so on. In practice, we managed to solve the conflict quickly.

You spoke of double standards during the crisis. How did they manifest themselves?

Its enough to look at what the foreign press has written about this issue. We see that no country in the world allows terrorists to propagate their views on air. Spain does not give the Basques such opportunities and the US certainly does not allow bin Laden. You must remember the heated debates there were in America as to whether his interview should go on air or not. And it went out only once, in a condensed version.

Furthermore, some things that happen in the US are impossible for us. Like for instance, when the State Department suddenly made a statement blasting two companies for showing Bush making a speech on overcoming the economic crisis, while in the background there is a graph of falling share prices. Bushs image was too small, they said. Could someone come up with anything like that in the Russian Federation?

Secretary-general of the Union of Journalists Igor Yakovenko told us that both NTV and TV6 were attacked and subsequently liquidated mainly because of their position on the Chechnya issue. Now that the conflict is more or less solved, can you say why exactly it happened?

No.

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