IFJ Backs Russian Union in Battle For Press Freedom As Government Launches Rival Organisation

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned attempts to launch a government-sponsored association of journalists in Russia.

"This organisation is being established to serve the interests of the Kremlin administration," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "it is a clear threat to independent journalism."

The new organisation - called Media Union of Russia - is funded by government cash, says the IFJ's affiliate organisation in Russia, the Russian Union of Journalists. The IFJ believes the new organisation is being created by the Putin government to silence its critics in the media, including the Russian Union, which has resolutely opposed government interference in media and has struggled for years to create independent journalism in the country.

The Russian Union was given a unanimous vote of support by delegates to the IFJ's 24th Congress of journalists groups from 80 countries meeting in Seoul, South Korea. "Our members are determined to fight any attempt to suppress the independent union that organises journalists in Russia," said Aidan White.

The new Media Union was established yesterday in St Petersburg at the Russian Media Forum 2001 at which journalists, publishers and other media professionals were joined by governmental officials.

"The crisis of press freedom in Russia over the past few years has been intensified by increasing government pressure on independent and critical voices in media," said Aidan White. "One example is the disgraceful treatment of journalists at NTV, the only national independent television network, which has been robbed of its independent status.

"The government is unhappy that their attempts to manipulate and control media have been frustrated by Russian journalists and their unions. Now they are using new tactics to try to silence their critics. We shall do everything we can to oppose this policy."