U.S. Pundits Condemn ABC's Airing of Basayev Interview - Survey

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In a survey conducted by Russian Information Agency Novosti among U.S. subscribers to daily e-mail newsletter Johnson's Russia List (JRL), 87% of respondents expressed their disapproval over ABC's broadcast of an interview with Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev.

In a survey conducted by Russian Information Agency Novosti among U.S. subscribers to daily e-mail newsletter Johnson's Russia List (JRL), 87% of respondents expressed their disapproval over ABC's broadcast of an interview with Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev.

Only 13% of respondents considered the 23-minute interview aired on national U.S. television to be justified by the public's "right to know."

Fifty percent of respondents considered it an "irresponsible act of negligence and a show of double standards," and 12% viewed it as "direct collaboration with terrorists, providing a mouthpiece to convey their instructions and solicit funding."

Director of the Discovering Russia travel agency Marc David Miller said that "while not a direct collaboration with terrorists, the interview did provide Basayev with a Western audience, some of whom will walk away from watching the interview thinking that, despite all of the blood on his hands, Basayev had justification for his actions (a view akin to thinking that bin Laden murdered 3,000 people in one day only to call attention to his cause)."

Miller went on to say that the coverage was unbalanced - there was no mention in the program of Basayev's invasion of Dagestan and little explanation of his terrorist background.

Three quarters of the respondents said the Russian Foreign Ministry's decision not to renew ABC's accreditation was an appropriate response. Thirteen percent considered the move insufficient and would have supported "closing the outlet in Russia and expelling [ABC's] staff from Russia." Twenty-five percent of respondents said the Russian authorities should have ignored ABC's airing of the interview.

Ninety percent of respondents expressed disapproval over the fact that Babitsky is on the U.S. payroll (as an employee of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, funded by the Congress). "I would call it scandalous, incompatible with the spirit of the global anti-terrorist alliance," Vlad Sobell, a senior economist with the Daiwa Institute of Research, said.

At a U.S. State Department daily press briefing on August 2, department spokesman Tom Casey said that ABC, along with other media sources, should be allowed freedom of expression and be able to choose what to report.

The survey was conducted August 3-5. JRL subscribers include members of academia, politics, the business community, and journalists involved in Russian-U.S. relations. The service has over 6,000 subscribers. The survey's results are based on the first 50 respondents.

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