DATE=6/4/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA/SUMMIT MEDIA NUMBER=5-46442 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have visited radio stations in Moscow to show their support for Russia's independent media, following a series of crackdowns. But as Moscow Correspondent Eve Conant reports, many local journalists fear Russians care less about the free press than Mr. Clinton does. TEXT: A Senior U-S official says President Clinton's radio appearance on a Russian call-in program is aimed at supporting Russia's independent media. Recent events have caused concern over newly elected President Vladimir Putin's commitment to a free press. Fears were first aroused earlier this year with the arrest and detention of Andrei Babitsky, a Radio Liberty reporter who angered authorities with his reports from behind rebel lines in Chechnya. After meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Mr. Babitsky told V-O-A she expressed a "restrained" optimism about the state of Russia's media that he and his colleagues do not share. /// ACT BABITSKY IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER /// He says - we talked about the catastrophic situation in Chechnya and how Russian journalists cannot write about the mass human-rights violations occurring there. Further concern over Russia's media was sparked in early May when a team of gun-toting police wearing ski masks raided the offices of the Media Most holding company. Media Most runs Russia's only independent national television station, N-T-V, as well as Ekho Moscow radio where President Clinton spoke. Russian officials said the raid was to investigate illegal wiretapping. But Masha Lipman, deputy editor of Media Most's "Itogi" magazine, says Russian journalists know the raid was carried out as a warning. /// ACT LIPMAN /// This is no secret, no one is to be fooled. This raid is an act of intimidation and this shows the bad instincts of this new government - their reaction to an opposition press as the enemy, as a force that gets in the way of their operation. Their reaction to this getting in the way is "let us neutralize it," not "let us cooperate with it, let us try to make ourselves look better." Instead they are trying to suppress, if indirectly, to neutralize, if indirectly. /// END ACT /// /// OPT /// Days after the Media Most raid a correspondent for the investigative Novaya Gazeta newspaper was beaten unconscious after assailants attacked him at his apartment entranceway. The motive for the attack remains a mystery, but its timing and its overall effect was another message to journalists that their jobs are hardly risk-free. ///END OPT/// Novaya Gazeta's Deputy Editor Sergey Sokolov says freedom of press in Russia is already a misnomer, with a few rich businessmen, referred to in Russia as the `oligarchs' at the helm of each of the country's main news outlets. He says Russians do not trust what they read or hear, anyway. ///// SOKOLOV ACT IN RUSSIAN WITH MOSCOW VOICE OVER IN ENGLISH ///// He says - readers are not interested, they do not even care. He says - Russians are fed up with the idea of a `free media' - the idea lost its value after so many T-V news programs did their best to discredit investigative journalism by treating T-V not as something serious, but more like a horror movie." /// END ACT /// Itogi Editor Masha Lipman says she is also frustrated by the seeming indifference of Russians. She is worried Russian journalists might be alone in their fight for the free word. /// ACT LIPMAN /// I think there is a division between journalists and the public. I think too much is taken for granted by the public and the reason for it is that the Russian people never actually fought for it. // OPT // Democracy, when it came to Russia did not fall owing to a popular movement, like happened in some countries of Eastern Europe. It was Gorbachev that started Perestroika, not the Russian people. People are not keeping a close watch on whether or not there is a crackdown on our freedoms. And they are even less ready to fight for it. I think this is a very important factor and a sad factor to me and this is a sad message to Russian journalists. // END OPT // /// END ACT /// General Secretary of Russia's Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko says one mistake Russian journalists made was to assume the fight for freedom was already won during democratic advances of the 1990's. /// ACT YAKOVENKO IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE. /// He says - press freedom is not something that is given once and forever. He points out it has been 10-years since the law on mass media was passed. Back then, says Igor Yakovenko, Russian journalists thought freedom would be automatic, but he says reporters have lost that feeling and today realize they must never stop fighting. Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky worries that average Russians will only fight for an independent media once they have lost it. /// SECOND BABITSKY ACT / RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE /// He says - I have a pretty dark view of the perspective for the free media in our country, but perhaps when society finally loses it for good, people will realize how indispensable it was. (SIGNED) NEB/EC/DW/RAE 04-Jun-2000 12:38 PM EDT (04-Jun-2000 1638 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .