August 02, 2005

An Interesting Approach to News Regulation

This is interesting:

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it will not renew permission for ABC-TV to operate in the country after the network broadcast an interview with a notorious Chechen warlord. In a statement, the ministry said ABC would be considered "undesirable" by all Russian state agencies because of an interview with Shamil Basayev, which was broadcast last week. The ministry called the broadcast a "clear fact supporting the propaganda of terrorism" and said it contained "direct vocal calls for violence against Russian citizens." As a result, the ministry said it decided "not to renew the accreditations of employees of this television company after they expire." The Foreign Ministry is the main government agency authorizing foreign media outlets to work in Russia, and the decision effectively now bars ABC from working here.

Imagine if the U.S. government handled regulation of news in a similar manner...

While there are circumstances where I would be really tempted to agree with the policy (e.g., CBS after its interview with Sadamm in the months before our invasion or "Rathergate", the New York Times on Gitmo, etc.), I am glad that the U.S. government doesn't practice such censorship. Clearly a free press is necessary to the preservation of our democracy by keeping the citizens informed (although, at times, the ideological agenda of some in the press tends to hinder such a purpose... but, I will save that rant for another time).
Would my answer change if ABC interviewed Bin Laden? No, not really. In America, the public condemnation would pretty much take care of it. I would like to believe that Americans would not tolerate a network that gave Bin Laden a forum to espouse his views. Most Americans would wonder why in the world ABC didn't provide Bin Laden's location to the U.S...
Update: Ron Coleman makes a good point:
I'm pretty big on free expression. It's all over this blog. But I do not believe that mass murderers are "entitled" to free expression. They cede whatever right to it they may have had when they depart from civilizations'standards by killing civilians to make their political points. More: Because these people use murder as a way to make political points, helping them make their points by giving them air time or column ink is a bloody business indeed.
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