Russian ouster fans media flames

Romanova takes legal action against studio guards

Russian media observers are crying foul after Ren-TV’s leading news presenter, Olga Romanova, was denied access to the broadcast studio Nov. 24 in a case that again raises the issue of political censorship — or, more likely, management self-censorship.

Romanova confirmed Monday that she would take legal action against the security guards who kept her out of Ren-TV, but not against the channel itself. The move to keep her off the air came hours after she speculated, on independent radio station Ekho-Moskvy, that news was being adjusted to suit a Kremlin-friendly agenda.

Long a respected face on Ren-TV, Russia’s No. 6 station, Romanova is acclaimed for the independence of her commentary on evening broadcast “24.” Incident came less than two months after Ren-TV changed owners. Previous majority shareholder United Energy Systems divested its 70% holding to private industrial groups Severstal and Surgutneftegaz, and channel founders Irena Lesnevskaya and son Dmitry sold their 30% to RTL.

Director general Alexander Ordzhonikidze said Romanova had gone against corporate ethics in discussing the issue, and that a rotation of staff had been in the works in an effort to boost ratings.

Concern over the incident is spreading: Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev told local agency Interfax, “Olga Romanova’s treatment is a clarion call that tells us that we have lost the last station that kept even a little independence and objectivity in its coverage.”

Simultaneously Monday saw Ren-TV appoint a new chief editor — a figure previously known as the head of a local PR agency.

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