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Grozny Television Station Shuts Down

The day after the Chechen press minister was fired, the Grozny television and radio station he created was surrounded Thursday by armed security forces who stopped journalists from leaving with equipment needed to do their jobs, station officials said. All 11 radio journalists resigned, and the television channel stopped broadcasting, Islam Musayev, deputy director of the company, said by telephone from Grozny.

It appeared to be the start of a takeover of the media company by supporters of Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov ahead of the Oct. 5 Chechen presidential election.

The Grozny radio and television company was created in March by Bislan Gantamirov, who was serving as the republic's press minister. He was fired Wednesday after disagreeing with some of Kadyrov's policies and saying he would support one of his rivals in the election. "All we want is to objectively report on the elections, on all the candidates equally," Musayev said. "But now we have informed the Chechen election commission that we cannot do our job."

The company employs 90 people and its television channel is one of only two local channels in Chechnya. The other is the Chechen state channel, an affiliate of the national Rossia channel.

Musayev said the building was surrounded early Thursday morning by men from the special forces, Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry, who banned people from leaving with television cameras, tape recorders and other equipment.

Gazeta.ru reported that those who surrounded the building were armed security guards working for Kadyrov's administration.

A representative of Kadyrov's election headquarters who did not want to be identified said, "Don't make a big deal out of it. Reorganization is always accompanied with problems."

(The Moscow Times 08.ix.03)

 
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