LIANE HANSEN, host:
This last week the Russian government retaliated against the American Broadcasting Company after its news division broadcast an interview with a Chechen rebel leader. Moscow's actions had a familiar ring to NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.
I felt that old deja vu feeling when ABC News was barred by Vladimir Putin's government from operating in Russia. It was the first such thing since Soviet times.
In 1958, the CBS bureau in Moscow, which I had opened, was ordered closed by Nikita Khrushchev's government, in rage over a "Playhouse 90" production, "The Plot to Kill Stalin," which suggested Khrushchev had been complicit in Stalin's death. In vain did we try to explain that CBS News had no connection with CBS Entertainment. The bureau stayed closed for two years.
ABC's sin, in the Kremlin's eyes, was broadcasting on "Nightline" an interview with the Chechen rebel leader, Shamil Basayev, who has a $10 million Russian price on his head. The interview had been obtained by a freelance journalist. No matter. Putin, who incidentally is a television fan, was not amused. The Ministry of Interior stated that the interview amounted to propagandizing terrorism.
Press freedom, generally speaking, has not fared well in the post-Soviet era. The main networks have been brought under government control. Media tycoons have gone to jail for offenses like tax evasions, which is commonplace in Russia. A Russian editor for Forbes magazine was murdered. Other journalists have been beaten.
The organization Reporters Without Borders has labeled Putin a predator of press freedom. Apparently, the Russians are sensitive to such criticism and now they have found a response. The English-language Moscow news headlines: Russians Quick to Criticize US Hypocrisy. That refers to Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who's in jail for refusing to disclose a confidential source. The Russian Ministry of the Interior, which has apparently done some boning up on the First Amendment, says in a formal statement that a journalist's right to keep his sources secret is a part of the press freedom mechanism in a democratic society. Judy Miller will surely be encouraged to know that she has a stalwart defender in the Kremlin. This is Daniel Schorr.
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