Friday, February 26, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow TV Exacerbating Ethnic Tensions, Chechen Ombudsman Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 26 – Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, human rights ombudsman for the Chechen Republic, has called on the residents of that republic not to watch Moscow television for a day to protest federal programming which he says is not only insulting to the Chechens but is exacerbating inter-ethnic relations in the Russian Federation.
Nukhazhiyev was moved to make that criticism and to call for that action by the decision of Russian television to show a film about the Chechen war which implied that only Russians fought terrorism there on the anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechen people to Central Asia and Siberia.
Federal channels routinely show programming which suggests that the Chechens are enemies of Russia, the Chechen ombudsman said, but “somehow these [same] channels every time ‘forget’ to recall that February 23rd is,” in addition to being Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, “a black day for the entire Chechen people.”
People must apologize for this and not allow such things to happen in the future, Nukhazhiyev continued, arguing that “beyond doubt, both attention and respect must be paid to this tragic event in the history of the Chechen people.” And to raise the attention of Moscow to that, he called on Chechens to turn off their television sets for a day.
As it often does about controversial ideas, the news agency surveyed the opinion of political, religious, and other public figures concerning Nukhazhiyev’s criticism and his proposal. Their comments show how sensitive such topics are and how difficult the media finds it to cover them ( and
Aleksandr Pochinok, the deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s commission on the development of the institutions of civil society, was dismissive. He said that federal television covers “quite accurately” all questions of international relations and that there are no programs which provoke interethnic hostility.
The Krasnoyarsk senator added that Moscow television thus does not merit the evaluation offered by Nukhazhiyev, although Pochinok noted that the Chechen ombudsman remarks concerning the lack of coverage of the deportation of the Chechen people under Stalin were entirely “just.”
Meanwhile, Oleg Panteleyev, a member of the Federation Council’s CIS Committee, called the Chechen ombudsman’s criticism “baseless,” arguing that showing films about military actions in Chechnya “cannot harm international relations” and that movies showing Russians fighting with Chechens were accurate, however much they might offend some people.
Duma Deputy Boris Reznik, however, expressed “understanding” of Nukhazhiyev’s criticism but he suggested that the Chechen official’s call for a boycott was an “emotional” excess and that the Chechen people would hardly gain by refusing to watch federal channels even for a day.
Nukhazhiyev did receive some support in Moscow for his call for a boycott. Galina Bogolyubova, the president of the Slavic Foundation, told that the Chechen was “correct that today really come out many films in which there is not a word about how the Chechen people itself has been fighting with the militants.”
But Archpriest Maksim Kozlov, pastor of the Orthodox congregation at Moscow State University, pointed out that “if contemporary Chechen leaders see Chechen within the Russian Federation and struggle with those who are against it, they have no need to minimize the bestial cruelty which those ‘fighters’ for the independence of Chechnya committed.”
Albir-Khazrat Krganov, first deputy chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) took a middle position. He said he agreed with Nukhazhiyev’s criticism but disagreed with his call for a boycott, something he suggested would not only be ineffective but possibly counterproductive.
Another religious leader, Bishop Konstantin Bendas of the Union of Evangelical Christians, backed the Chechen leader’s criticism and his call more fully. “Unfortunately,” he said, “our television and the producers of many programs very rarely” considers the moral impact of its programs.
But Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam with close ties to the Orthodox hierarchy, said that he “had not noticed that in films about the struggle with terrorism, the services of the Chechen people in that cause had been minimized.” Instead, he said, many programs are “simply harmful for the moral health of Russians.”

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