OSCE: Triple credibility gap in Russian media coverage of Beslan siege
(Prague Watchdog) - The Russian authorities impeded the work of journalists covering the hostage-taking crisis in the North Ossetian town of Beslan in early September, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said today.
"A triple credibility gap arose: between the government and the media, between the media and the citizens, and between the government and the people. This is a serious drawback for a democracy," writes the 13-page report, research for which was conducted by the Center for Journalism in Expreme Situations (CJES) of the Russian Union of Journalists and presented by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklós Haraszti, at today's news conference in Vienna.
Although the coverage of the events has proven that media freedom had taken hold in Russia, cases of detention and harassment of journalists occurred during the crisis. Besides, the authorities did not provide in a timely manner truthful information on the handling of the crisis. This applies to the very basic information, namely how many people were taken hostage, what was the number of the hostage-takers, who were they and what were their demands. As a result, journalists were physically attacked in Beslan for allegedly misinforming the public, the report writes.
According to most of the journalists who were working in Beslan from September 1 until the release of the first hostages at midday on September 3, the authorities did not obstruct the work of most reporters during this time period. Most of the problems that journalists faced came from local residents who began to treat the press aggressively after Russian state TV channels only reported official information about the number of hostages.
Journalists encountered some of their most serious problems on September 3 right after the storming of the school began. Many Russian and foreign TV journalists were reported to have been searched. Their tapes with the material they had filmed were confiscated. And during and after the storming of the school, many journalists were exposed to pressure from the police and from security services, the report writes.
(T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Full text of OSCE report (in PDF format)
· Website of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media