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    CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION TURNS DOWN KHAKAMADA-KHARITONOV COMPLAINT

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    MOSCOW, February 20th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Russia's Central Election Commission has turned down the complaint of two presidential candidates Irina Khakamada and Nikolai Kharitonov.

    The latter appealed to the Central Election Commission against law violations committed by two federal channels that broadcast Vladimir Putin's February 12th meeting with his support group.

    The Commission's ruling says that the state-run TV channels - Channel One and VGTRK - "covered the run-up event of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin on their own initiative." "Putin's address was scheduled in advance and represented huge interest for the public. Hence, the TV channels sought to inform voters, and not to promote the candidate," runs the ruling.

    At the same time, the Central Election Commission noted that "media reports about the election campaign should not violate the principle of equality of the candidates." The Central Election Commission turned down Kharitonov's and Khakamada's complaint, and "took into consideration Channel One and VGTRK's declared readiness to cover the election campaign of all the registered candidates in line with the law." When speaking at the session, Sergei Bolshakov of the Commission noted that VGTRK's report about Vladimir Putin's address to his supporters could not have been ordered and paid for by the presidential candidate. Hence, Bolshakov said, Kharitonov's claim that Putin conducted his election campaign in circumvention of the law did not correspond to reality.

    Bolshakov pointed out that Kharitonov's and Khakamada's complaint made no mentioning of Channel One and VGTRK's refusal to cover these candidates' election campaign.

    Khakamada's and Kharitonov's representatives insisted that a protocol be drafted on an administrative violation on behalf of the federal channels, and that an inquiry be launched into the activities of VGTRK officials.

    At the session of the Central Election Commission, the majority of its members agreed there had been no violations in the media coverage of Vladimir Putin's meeting.

    Central Election Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov referred to the decision of the Constitutional Court that media outlets can be found guilty of biased coverage of an election campaign if their purpose and intentions are proved.

    As a result, the majority of the Central Election Commission's members - 11 people - voted for turning down the Khakamada-Kharitonov complaint.

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