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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"Crowds of journalists packed the networks entrance"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Russian journalists resist NTV takeover
Ousted director Yevgeny Kiselyov says the takeover is illegal
NTV journalists vowed to oppose 'pseudo-management'
Journalists at Russia's only nationwide independent television station, NTV, are stepping up their sit-in protest against the takeover of their channel by state-dominated giant Gazprom.

The journalists were joined by members of parliament and human rights activists in an all-night vigil at Ostankino television centre, alarmed at news that the new management team would come to seize NTV offices.

Some 400 NTV journalists stayed on air all night vowing to oppose the move, which they consider illegal.

We have crawled under bullets and walked into beasts' dens to entertain our viewers. Few things can scare us

NTV reporter Nikolai Bazhenov

They say they will continue their protest for "as long as is necessary".

NTV's board fell under Gazprom control on Tuesday, provoking fears that media freedom had been dealt a serious blow.

Meanwhile, the founder of the American international channel, CNN - Ted Turner - has signed an outline deal to buy NTV shares belonging to its former boss, Vladimir Gusinsky.

Programmes cancelled

Some of NTV's leading correspondents say they will defy any orders given by the channel's new director-general - Boris Jordan, an American investment banker.

"We will not stage self-burnings or build barricades, but we will react with civil disobedience," said ousted director Yevgeny Kiselyov, adding: "We will not obey the orders of the new pseudo-management".

Former NTV director general Yevgeny Kiselyov
Ousted director Yevgeny Kiselyov says there will be civil disobedience
The journalists have accused President Vladimir Putin of waging a campaign to stifle them.

"We have no doubt that Vladimir Putin, as before, knows full well what is going on and is thus responsible for the consequences," a statement on Tuesday said.

NTV correspondent Nikolai Bazhenov said the journalists would eventually win.

"We have crawled under bullets and walked into beasts' dens to entertain our viewers. Few things can scare us," he said.

What is happening today is nonsense, it is a challenge to our society, it humiliates us, citizens of Russia

Ex-President Mikhail Gorbachev
Regular programming has been cancelled, replaced with hourly news bulletins. In the intervals, NTV has been transmitting a picture of an empty studio, a symbol journalists here claim of the threat to freedom of the media in Russia.

However, former President Mikhail Gorbachev, who heads NTV's standards watchdog, described the events as folly.

"What is happening today is nonsense, it is a challenge to our society, it humiliates us, citizens of Russia," he said.

Board sacked

Mr Jordan has told the BBC he would defend NTV's editorial independence.

But the BBC Moscow correspondent says the journalists accuse the Kremlin of masterminding the changes to punish the channel for its regular criticism of President Putin.

The old NTV board was sacked by the gas firm Gazprom, which says it owns a controlling stake of the station.

NTV's original parent company, the Media-Most empire run by tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, says the meeting was illegal and the new board appointed by Gazprom has no legitimacy.

Russia's only two other nationwide television stations, ORT and RTR, are already controlled by the government.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Europe
NTV's battle with the Kremlin
03 Apr 01 | Europe
Russian TV station loses freedom
10 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia TV saga rumbles on
29 Jan 01 | Europe
TV journalists in Kremlin talks
17 Dec 00 | Media reports
Russian media war hots up
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Russian tycoon released on bail
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Gusinsky: Thorn in Putin's side
28 Mar 00 | Business
Russia's new oligarchs
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