Moscow, 13 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Federation Council (upper house of parliament) today approved amendments to a draft media law that would severely curb news coverage of antiterrorist operations. The amendments, passed by the vote of 145 to one, prohibit the media from distributing information on antiterrorist operations and revealing tactics as well as people involved in them.
The amendments also ban the publication or broadcast of rebel statements as well as any statements justifying rebels' activities.
Valerii Manilov, first deputy speaker of the Federation Council, said the amendments will help the fight against terrorism. "With the help of these [amendments] we can increase the effectiveness of the fight against terror and consolidate our society for this fight."
Shortly before the vote, police broke up a brief demonstration by members of liberal Yabloko party who called for the freedom for the media.
Yabloko's head Grigorii Yavlinskii said in an open letter to the Federation Council's head Sergei Mironov that the amendments affect anyone who dares to criticize authorities.
Last month, Russian special forces stormed a Moscow theater to end a three-day hostage crisis. The media, while praising the rescue, were critical of secrecy surrounding the operation and expressed doubt about the official casualty count.
The new law effectively bars the media from analyzing or criticizing antiterrorist measures.