IFJ Condemns "Censorship and Wanton Destruction" of Television Footage in Russia

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group today condemned Russian security officials for censorship of Chechen media coverage by Norwegian journalists. The protest comes only weeks after Russia adopted a law severely restricting media coverage of terrorism and rebellions, such as the one in Chechnya.

The incident involved Hans-Wilhelm Steinfeld, Moscow correspondent for the Norwegian state broadcast network NRK, who had been in Ingushetia in the Northern Caucasus region, reporting on tens of thousands of refugees who fled over the border from the conflict in Chechnya. Police at an airport in Ingushetia stopped the news team on 20 November. Officers seized four tapes and when they were returned later an hour of footage had been erased on two of them, probably by a strong magnet, said Steinfeld.

"This is an act of censorship and wanton destruction and is completely unacceptable," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The destruction of editorial material by security forces puts increased pressure on journalists, many of whom face enough dangers in the field when reporting on the Chechnya conflict."

Steinfeld is one of Norway's most experienced foreign correspondents and has worked for NRK in Moscow during the 1980s until 1994 and now from 2000. He says this is the first time Russian or Soviet security service has ruined journalistic material from NRK.

The IFJ is strongly supporting the actions of the Norwegian Union of Journalists, which is taking the case up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "This is a violation of the rights of journalists that should be investigated and condemned," said White.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries