A leading Russian television channel pulled a report on civilian deaths and kidnappings in Chechnya on October 29, stoking concerns the Kremlin is trying to censor critical reporting about the restive region ahead of a presidential election.
The 10-minute documentary, which included claims by a 26-year-old Chechen that local security forces had chained him to a radiator on a police base, was aired on NTV television in Russia’s Far East but then taken off the air.
For prime-time audiences in Moscow and European Russia, the report was replaced with images of ballerinas twirling on the newly opened stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.
The NTV journalist who made the report, Nikolai Kovalkov, said he had expected to see it aired but could not comment on why it had not run.
A spokeswoman for NTV, which is controlled by state-controlled gas behemoth Gazprom, said the story had been withdrawn by management for revision and fact-checking.
“The story was shown in the Far East, after which the management decided to send it back for revision and fact checking. This is common practice in news editorial bureaus,” Maria Bezborodova said by telephone.
But human rights campaigners and journalists said NTV’s decision to pull the program shows the challenges many television reporters face in Russia.
“This scandal not only shows up the problems of the law in the Chechnya but of freedom of speech in Russia,” Igor Kalyapin, who heads the Committee Against Torture, told Reuters. The Kremlin declined to comment.
compiled from Reuters reports