Mr. Ivan Rybkin
Chairman of the Duma
Russian Federation

Dear Mr. Rybkin,

The International Press Institute (IPI), representing editors and leading journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in over 80 countries, is most concerned about the publication in Russia of a draft law which seeks to establish greater state control over the country’s mass media.

The draft law “on state support to the mass media of the Russian Federation”, which was prepared by the Lower Chamber’s Media Committee and aims at establishing unlimited state control over both the print and electronic media through the creation of a central controlling body, has been much criticized by your country’s professional and academic media experts. While article 2 of the draft law, which provides for the removal of certain taxes on the media, is considered to be a positive step, other articles, in particular 3 and 4, are regarded as a severe threat to freedom of expression in Russia.

Article 3 provides for the establishment of the National Fund for Development of Mass Media, a controlling body with unlimited functions and prerogatives, designed to keep a tight watch over the printed press, radio and especially television, while article 4 stipulates that this new fund should maintain control over all state owned media.

The draft law suggests that the National Fund should control not only the media, but also communication facilities (i.e. the national infrastructure for the distribution of radio and television programmes) and a considerable portion of newspaper, radio and TV shares.

IPI believes that the draft law on “state support to mass media”, by seeking a return to censorship and the centralised control of the media, presents a major obstacle to the transition from a state-controlled broadcasting system to editorially-independent public service broadcasting, as well as a serious threat to the independent mass media in general.

We urge therefore, in your capacity as Chairman of the Duma, to approach the members of the Lower Chamber on this matter and to inform them of the detrimental effects on the democratization process in Russia such a law would have.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz