Due to pressure from the licensing authorities, last Friday Bolshoye Radio, the Moscow distributor of the BBC’s broadcasts of Russian-language news decided to cut off the FM signal, and replace the content with locally produced content. The station’s owners, financial group Finam, said the BBC’s output was “foreign propaganda.” Today media watchdog International Press Institute issued a statement:
Commenting on the situation, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, “I hope that the removal of the BBC World Service from a Russian FM radio station is not the start of a return to cold-war limitations on press freedom and freedom of expression within Russia.” “Since 2000, the Russian government has sought to obtain greater control over information and has tightened its grip on the media, particularly broadcasting. In addition, foreign NGO’s have also faced pressure from the authorities. With parliamentary elections later this year, and presidential elections in March 2008, it is possible that the removal of the BBC is part of a policy to control the media during this crucial period.” “I would encourage Bolshoye Radio to allow the BBC World Service to continue broadcasting on the station’s airwaves and I would ask the authorities to do more to protect the right of the Russian people to receive a plurality of information from both national and international sources,” added Fritz.