Electoral Mutiny Ensues In TV Commercial Ban

Electoral Mutiny Ensues In TV Commercial Ban

Published: November 30, 2011 (Issue # 1685)

MOSCOW — Campaign ads by opposition parties have been banned on state television by order of the head of the Central Elections Commission, who has no authority to do so, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Vladimir Churov’s actions prompted a mutiny among the commission’s working group, whose job is to review such videos, but which was only asked to do so after they were banned, the newspaper said.

State-owned broadcaster VGTRK announced last week that it was banning videos by Yabloko, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democrats following a letter from Churov, who said he suspected the ads promoted extremism and targeted other parties.

But only police or prosecutors can ban a video, while all the Central Elections Commission is authorized to do is request that a questionable campaign ad be examined, said the Communist Party’s head lawyer, Vadim Solovyov.

Elections officials also only asked the working group — which consists of unspecified media figures and elections experts — to review the videos slated for a ban last Thursday, after they were already de facto banned.

In protest, members of the group refused to make any ruling on the videos, robbing the ban of any expert backing, Vedomosti reported.

Attempts to clarify the matter failed Monday. VGTRK deputy head Dmitry Kiselyov, who oversaw the videos’ removal, was not available for comment, his press office said.

Anonymous Kremlin sources and election officials told Vedomosti that the ban had been arranged by the Office for Presidential Affairs. The office had no comment on the allegations.

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