DATE=5/18/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA MEDIA NUMBER=5-46340 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: More than one-thousand demonstrators have rallied on a square in central Moscow to denounce what they call a plot by Russia's new government to clamp down on press freedom. Moscow Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports a number of prominent politicians and media personalities joined the protest. TEXT: /// CHANTING - FADE UNDER /// Free the media - these demonstrators shouted as they stood in the bright May sunshine bathing central Moscow's Pushkin Square. By the standards set during anti-government protests of the past, this was a small rally. As the Soviet Union crumbled and independent Russia emerged in the early 90's, huge crowds often gathered around the statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin to demand press freedoms. That tradition faded away in recent years as a free media began to emerge. But recently there has been a rise in incidents that seem to target independent reporters and media outlets. The most disturbing event was last week's raid by heavily armed and masked police on the headquarters of the country's largest independent media company, Media-Most. After that, Russia's Union of Journalists decided it was time to revive the Pushkin Square rallies. The Federal Security Bureau, or F-S-B, the modern-day successor to the Soviet K-G-B, says the raid was a legitimate part of a criminal investigation. But the director of Media Most's N-T-V television channel, Evgeny Kiselyov - one of Russia's best know media personalities - calls the incident part of a deliberate campaign aimed at silencing government critics. /// KISELYOV ACT /// I do really think that there is a great danger in the country. I do believe that the F-S-B raid on our offices was an attempt to silence independent journalists to intimidate not only the free press, but the society as a whole. /// END ACT /// Others at the rally went even further, expressing fears that President Vladimir Putin is intent on again making Russia a police state. /// MAN CHANTING, FADE UNDER /// Fascism will not be allowed - was the cry of 75-year old Pyotr Tsvetkov. It was a slogan used in Russia's battle against Nazi Germany in World War Two. Mr. Tsvetkov says younger Russians, who voted overwhelmingly for President Putin, need to be reminded about the dangers of police rule. /// TSVETKOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says - Putin is not worthy of being president. He is Stalin. He is a butcher of our people. We believed him, and he cheated us. Liberal lawmaker and former presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky was among the politicians who addressed the rally. /// YAVLINSKY SPEECH - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He noted that while the turnout was encouraging, many of Moscow's most prominent journalists were conspicuously absent. Free-speech advocate Alexei Simonov, head of the Glasnost Foundation human-rights group, says that in the current environment of media intimidation, a lot of journalists are afraid to speak out. /// SIMONOV ACT /// For getting better the situation must change in so many details, including the attitude of journalists, which you see several people discussed - that some people were afraid to come and they are working in leading newspapers of Moscow. And that is a big problem. If this population will get frightened, that will be the end of democracy. /// END ACT /// /// SPEAKING AND CROWD - FADE UNDER AND HOLD /// The editor of the mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Pasvel Gusev, told the rally he worries that the government is consciously trying to divide journalists. Among those who stayed away from the gathering were representatives of the media outlets controlled by Kremlin ally Boris Berezovsky. State-run media largely ignored the rally, giving it only a brief mention. N-T-V's Evgeny Kiselyov noted the division in the media community, saying - a lot of people we call our colleagues seem to have become cowards. (SIGNED) NEB/PFH/JWH/RAE 18-May-2000 10:23 AM EDT (18-May-2000 1423 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .