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The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"The television station is now broadcasting its full range of programmes as usual"
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
NTV on air but protests continue
NTV newsreader
NTV restarted broadcasts "in the audience's interest"
Journalists at Russia's NTV television station have resumed normal broadcasting though they say their protest at the station's takeover by a state-dominated firm will continue.

The station - Russia's only independent national TV station - was taken over on Tuesday by the state-dominated Gazprom, which brought in its own management team.

The protesters accuse the Kremlin of orchestrating the move to stifle its often critical stance towards the government, but Gazprom insists it is trying to recoup bad debts.

The standoff is causing increasing international concern over press freedom in Russia.

Management presses ahead

Since Tuesday night, NTV had only been broadcasting news and reports on the ownership battle.

Kiselyov
Yevgeny Kiselyov: determined to fight on
Star presenter Yevgeny Kiselyov said it had decided to start normal programming again in the interest of its audience.

"But we will not stop our actions of protest," he said. "They will take different forms. We stand by our previous position".

However, the new management instated by Gazprom is pressing for control of the station, rejecting a three-month moratorium on management and editorial changes proposed by the journalists.

A representative of new director-general Boris Jordan arrived at the station on Thursday for talks but only gained entry after a lengthy and heated argument with journalists blocking his way, which NTV broadcast live.

'White knight'

The journalists are now hoping that rescue may come from America.

Boris Jordan
Boris Jordan: determined to push through changes
The founder of the American international channel CNN, Ted Turner - who journalists have dubbed a white knight - has begun negotiations with Russian tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky to buy out some of his NTV shares.

Mr Gusinsky's Media-Most company was NTV's parent company until it fell to Gazprom in a boardroom coup.

Mr Turner's investment group is reported to include the billionaire financier George Soros.

"We look forward with enthusiasm to finalising an agreement with Gazprom and Gazprom-Media that will ensure the ongoing independence of NTV," said a statement from Mr Turner.

"In earlier negotiations with Gazprom, we both agreed that no one party should have control of NTV and we are pursuing that course," he said.

International concern

The struggle for control over NTV has raised concern in Berlin and Strasbourg over the future of a free press in Russia.

Chancellor Schroeder says he will raise the TV dispute with President Putin when he visits Moscow next week.

And in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe called on Russian authorities not to meddle in the media.

"I want to stress the crucial importance of independent media in any society and even more that of a nationwide TV in an emerging democracy such as Russia," said the Council's Parliamentary Assembly president.

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
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Russian tycoon released on bail
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Gusinsky: Thorn in Putin's side
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