- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Appeal to Russia
The National Press Club has added its powerful voice to critics of the takeover of Russias main independent television station by a state-run natural gas company.
Press club President Dick Ryan has appealed to Russian Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov "to urge Vladimir V. Putin to allow independent media to report the news freely without government controls."
In a letter to the ambassador released yesterday, Mr. Ryan denounced the April 14 takeover of NTV by Gazprom, which owned 45 percent of the stock in the company.
Mr. Ryan also criticized "official actions against NTV-affiliated Segodnya newspaper and Itogi news magazine."
The ambassador, in a statement last night, said he would pass on the letter to Moscow but noted that the dispute over NTV was a financial one, involving stockholders replacing the management of the station. The new managing director, American investor Boris Jordan, has said the station was nearly bankrupted by the old management.
Mr. Ushakov insisted that freedom of the press is a bedrock of the new Russia.
"We believe the situation around NTV should not be intentionally politicized," he said. "It is important to separate the financial aspect of the problem from the political notion. We want to stress that freedom of the press is one of the hard-won gains of democracy in Russia, and nobody is going to abandon it."
Mr. Ryan, in his letter, said, "Gazprom seized control of NTV last week in what the network and its supporters say was a Kremlin-orchestrated assault on critical media.
"NTV workers ceded control to the gas company on April 14 after resisting for 11 days. Journalists opposed to Gazproms takeover were barred from the stations studios and fired. The Press Club is also troubled by reports of Segodnyas disappearance from newsstands and Itogis staff being barred from the magazines editorial offices.
"The Press Club believes that the assault on these media outlets is an effort to silence critics of the Russian government by clamping down on the countrys only independent national television station and establishing complete control over the countrys airwaves."
Mr. Ryan notified the ambassador that the press clubs voice is a strong one, consisting of "nearly 4,500 journalists, public information officers and regular news sources in Washington, D.C., and around the globe."

U.S. responsibility

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday said peace in the Middle East is "the responsibility of the United States" and the Bush administration should play a more "effective" role.
After meeting President Bush, Mr. Hariri told reporters, "I explained to the president that Lebanon is keen and interested to see the peace process are going on. And the situation in the region is concerning everybody, and we would like to see the United States playing a more effective role to push forward the peace process."
"Peace in the region is the responsibility of the United States, because it is the leader of the world," he added.
Mr. Hariri said he believes Mr. Bush is committed to the goal but will use different methods from the Clinton administration.
"The president made it very clear at the beginning of our discussion that the United States is engaged in the peace process," Mr. Hariri said.
"Also, their perception is not the same, but they are very concerned, and they would be engaged in a different way, using different methods, but they are for the peace."

Safe in Kenya

The United States has taken steps to ensure the safety of its ambassador to Kenya, following death threats from three Kenyan U.N. workers, the State Department said yesterday.
The employees of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees face charges of threatening Ambassador Johnnie Carson and other U.S. Embassy employees and extorting money from refugees seeking help from the commission.
Department spokesman Philip Reeker said, "We take these threats and all threats against our personnel and our ambassadors very seriously… . Appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the ambassador and other embassy employees."
News reports from Kenya said it is not clear why the three defendants made threats against the ambassador and his aides.

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