Pro-Russia Crimean Leadership Shuts Down Two Ukrainian TV Networks

 AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

MOSCOW -- The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the authorities of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula for taking two independent TV channels off the air in what is seen as a bid to control the flow of information amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the future of the region.

"Crimean authorities should immediately restore broadcasting in the region by the independent Ukraine television stations Channel 5 and Channel 1+1," the organization said Friday.

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Ukrainian media reported that people clad in military outfits, acting on orders from Crimea's new pro-Russian authorities, arrived at the broadcasting center in the region's capital, Simferopol, and demanded that several networks be taken off the air and replaced with Russian TV channels.

Employees were forced to comply with the demands, and Russian state-controlled networks Rossiya and Rossiya-24 started airing instead of Channel 5 and Channel 1+1, according to the reports.

The takeover of the broadcasting center occurred at a time when tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the Black Sea peninsular region are escalating. Over the past week, Moscow and Kiev have repeatedly accused each other's media of biased reporting on the situation in Crimea. Earlier this week, Russian and Ukrainian media giants exchanged calls for unbiased reporting on the situation.

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On Thursday, the parliament of Crimea, which has a predominantly Russian population, voted for breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. Russia is expected to respond to the move after a national referendum in Crimea, scheduled for March 16, in which people will be asked if they want the region to join Russia.

Channel 5 is owned by Ukrainian tycoon Piotr Poroshenko, who played a key role in the protests that led to the ousting of Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych last month. 1+1 is the flagship channel of the independent 1+1 Media Group.

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