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    RUSSIAN PRESS MINISTRY: THE BBC UNDER POLITICAL PRESSURE

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    MOSCOW, January 30th, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Press Ministry is concerned over the developing political crisis in the BBC (British Broadcasting Company).

    "Few in the Russian media expected that the Hutton report would lead to the resignation of two top officials - Director General Greg Dyke and Chairman Gavyn Davies - of the BBC, which has always been an example of true media independence," Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin told journalists on Friday.

    He expressed confidence that the BBC had been under serious political pressure that could result in "sterility" of public and political programmes covering not only Iraq developments but also other issues of the government activity.

    "Such trends have been typical for US TV companies so far, and it would be sad to see such an atmosphere in Europe," said Lesin.

    According to the minister, he was especially struck by the regretting tone of the departing and current BBC leaders. "The statements that 'Lord Hutton has made a very thorough investigation into what happened' and 'all of us have to reflect very carefully on what he has found' rather resemble those of Soviet writers in reply to the Communist Party's criticisms in Soviet years of stagnation," said Lesin.

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