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Russia to close independent Siberian TV channel

December 29, 2014

An independent TV station based in Siberia will go off air on January 1st on the orders of Russian authorities following months of pressure, its editor in chief said Monday.

TV-2, a popular channel in the city of Tomsk and one of the last independent channels, will have to cease its cable broadcasts one month later, following the decision by the state television and radio broadcasting network, Viktor Muchnik told AFP.

Long-running frictions with the authorities have intensified this year, Muchnik said.

“We were under constant pressure to change our editorial policies,” he said.

“We’re not an opposition channel, we simply give everyone an opportunity to speak.”

“Before, this was considered normal, but then they started telling us who to invite and who not to invite.”

TV-2 reaches around 600,000 people and about 50,000 tune in to its news programs, where local officials are often criticised and analysts unseen on state television contribute from Moscow via Skype.

The decision to shut it down led to unprecedented rallies of support earlier this month in Tomsk.

The channel’s problems began earlier this year, when it went off the air for an extended period due to an “accident” at the local TV tower. “Other channels get these problems fixed quickly, and we were off air for two months,” Muchnik said.

The outage provoked allegations of censorship.

Muchnik said that 200 people have already been informed about their imminent dismissal.

A number of Russian media outlets have been overhauled this year, as the conflict in Ukraine has fuelled one-sided and even fake news coverage on state channels.

Several news companies have had their editors fired while others have lost studio space.

“The political situation has changed and now all media is being purged,” Muchnik said.

“If we didn’t have news and analysis, our problems wouldn’t exist.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.