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Russian political talk show cancelled over ‘censorship’

Russia’s music channel MTV has cancelled a new political talk show after just one episode due to apparent political censorship ahead of the presidential election, the show’s host said Tuesday.

“Today my programme Gosdep was pulled from the air despite the rating. On Friday we were planning to film (opposition leader) Alexei Navalny,” the show’s presenter Kseniya Sobchak wrote on her Twitter blog.

Gosdep, which aired for the first time in early February, was a debate-style talk show about politics launched on MTV, a channel that targets primarily teenagers.

The first episode, called Where is Putin Taking Us? placed several opposition politicians, including those never shown on Russian television, against those supporting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who is running for president in elections to be held in three weeks’ time.

“I am very sorry, but it seems that Gosdep was closed because of me,” wrote Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and blogger who has grown into one of the main leaders of the protest movement in Russia.

MTV said on its website that the show “provoked a strong reaction in the media and blogosphere”, but that the channel “decided to stop filming the talk show and confirm its format and the channel’s position.”

Sobchak, a glamorous socialite and sharp-tongued journalist known for hosting Russia’s version of reality show Big Brother, has made no secret of her participation in anti-Putin protests in Moscow in recent months.

She said her new program was for young people who care about Russia’s future and want to hear answers to acute questions.

The channel had already paid money for four episodes, and the first one had double the regular audience, she said, calling it a “successful uncensored episode”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s liberal radio station Moscow Echo said it was under threat of editorial changes after Putin said the station poured “diarrhoea” over him and served the interests of a foreign state.

The station’s chief shareholder removed two independent directors from its board in a move that editor Alexei Venediktov saw as an attempt to influence its editorial policies.