Russia warns media on economic crisis reporting

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MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian prosecutors will aggressively monitor how media outlets report on the ongoing financial crisis, authorities said Wednesday.

The Prosecutor General's office ordered news organizations to be responsible when reporting on financial institutions and not to spread panic, saying inspections may be carried out. No further details were given.

Reports on the Russian stock market plummet or the decline of the ruble have been all but absent on state-run television. Most TV stations are run by the government or private companies loyal to the Kremlin.

The new order appears to be the latest attempt by the Kremlin to control how the Russian public perceives the country's worst economic crisis in a decade. It was not immediately clear whether it applies to foreign news organizations operating in Russia.

Russian newspapers and Web sites said the order would amount to censorship. The daily Kommersant said the editor of a regional news agency had already been summoned for questioning about his agency's reporting on regional banks.

Vladimir Varfolomeyev, a top editor at Ekho Moskvy radio, wrote in his blog recently that the Kremlin sent an order to all broadcasters banning the words "collapse" and "crisis."

But prosecutors' spokeswoman Marina Gridneva, however, said no censorship was planned, according to the Interfax news agency.

Earlier this month, President Dmitry Medvedev asserted that unfounded rumors published in media outlets were causing bank runs and panic in some regions. In some cases, he said, the rumors were started by unscrupulous businessmen.

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