An unexpected outburst by a handful of protesters at an international media conference hosted by the Russian President made for some awkward moments.
Vladimir Putin listened on as the group repeatedly shouted “Putin is the executioner of freedom.” Only after they were removed did Putin respond to the often harsh criticisms emanating from 1700-strong strong audience relayed by Gavin O’Reilly, President of the World Association of Newspapers. He had questionned Russia’s increasing influence over media, and appealed for the country to develop a strong independent press. Addressing O’Reilly personally, Putin said he saw things otherwise. “As for the increasing presence of state ownership in mass media, I have different information. The state share of assets on the mass media market is constantly decreasing. It is easy to check,” he said. But that did not necessarily convince the audience. With three main nationwide television channels controlled by the state critics see the situation as reminscent of the Soviet era.