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Russian President Putin at the WAN congress (epa)
June 5, 2006 -- Russia's President Vladimir Putin today sidestepped criticism of media freedom in Russia at the start of a conference organized in Moscow by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).
He stressed both the importance of democracy and of media freedom in modern Russia, saying that Russians had "made a conscious choice in favor of democracy" and that "freedom of the mass media remains the most important guarantee of the irreversibility of that choice."
He argued that media freedom is "fixed in the Russian constitution" and that Russia's media law "has been recognized as the one of the most liberal in the world."
Putin said that many in the world still fail to acknowledge the scale of the changes Russia has gone through since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The head of WAN, Timothy Balding, said last week that the current state of the Russian media and trends in the media are "neither encouraging nor satisfactory."