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Putin Vetoes New Media Restrictions - 2002-11-25

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vetoed amendments to a media law that would have restricted news coverage of government efforts to fight terrorism.

Russian news agencies are reporting that President Putin announced his decision in a meeting with media officials.

According to the agencies, Mr. Putin told the officials that he was asking the leaders of both houses of parliament to form a commission to revise the amendments to an existing law on the media.

It was not clear what changes the Russian leader is seeking.

The amendments vetoed by Mr. Putin would have stopped media organizations from reporting information that was viewed as harmful to anti-terrorist operations. The media would also have been restricted from publicizing information that officials viewed as justifying extremist activity.

The amendments were widely criticized by journalists, who claimed officials would use the amendments to censor news outlets critical of the Kremlin.

Russian media quoted Mr. Putin as saying that it is important to find a balance between "restrictions and informing society."

The amendments were passed by both houses of parliament shortly after the Moscow hostage crisis. At least 129 people died during the crisis, almost all from the effects of gas used by Russian forces when they stormed the theater where the hostages were being held.

During the meeting, Mr. Putin is reported to have criticized Russian media coverage of the hostage crisis. The Russian leader said many media outlets used the crisis to increase ratings.