August 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An international media freedom watchdog has criticized a decision by Russia's Bolshoye Radio to stop broadcasting the BBC's World Service programs in the Russian language.
The management of Bolshoye Radio said on August 17 that it would no longer broadcast the BBC's World Service programs. It was the only Russian FM station still broadcasting BBC content.
Johann Fritz, the director of the International Press Institute (IPI), said on August 20 that he hopes "the removal of the BBC World Service from a Russian FM radio station is not the start of a return to cold-war limitations on press freedom and freedom of expression within Russia."
In a statement released by the Austrian-based IPI, Fritz said the Russian government has sought greater contol over the media since 2000. "With parliamentary elections later this year, and presidential elections in March 2008, it is possible that the removal of the BBC is part of a policy to control the media during this crucial period," Fritz said.
Bolshoye Radio's parent company said the station was dropping its BBC programming because it is required to broadcast only original content. But IPI cited news reports suggesting the station had been pressured by authorities to halt its BBC broadcasts.