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Authorities Silence Russia's Independent TV6 - 2002-01-22

Russia's media minister has taken the country's largest independent television station off the air, the apparent conclusion to a standoff that has renewed the debate on media freedom in post-Soviet Russia.

TV6 stopped broadcasting at midnight Monday, hours after its journalists backed out of last week's promise to sever ties with maverick station owner and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky.

TV6 director Yevgeny Kiselyov said his station had made the promise to the government under pressure and could not follow through with it. A court order, issued January 11, had called for TV6 shutdown after a station shareholder partly controlled by the Russian government complained the television station was losing money.

Mr. Kiselyov said on Monday that the government has pressured him into the deal to sever ties with TV6 owner Boris Berezovsky. Mr. Kiselyov told Echo Moskvy radio he had agreed to surrender the station's broadcast license in a deal that would have allowed his team of journalists to compete for a new license without Mr. Berezovsky.

The government says it will put TV6 broadcasting license up for sale sometime in the next few months, perhaps in March.

Government critics see the dispute over TV6 as an attempt by the Kremlin to muzzle independent media, a charge denied by the government.