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Artyom Liss

Audiences are concerned about the possibility of people imitating behaviour they see or hear on television and radio.

Particular care should be taken when dealing with vandalism, the use of weapons or criminal techniques.

The Moscow Theatre hostage crisis - by Artyom Liss, Online Producer, Russian Service

In October 2002, 50 heavily-armed Chechen rebels took 800 theatre-goers in the Moscow Dubrovka Theatre Centre hostage. The rebels demanded a pull-out of the Russian army from Chechnya.

Four days after the siege began, Russian special forces stormed the theatre. All the rebels and over 120 hostages were killed.

From the start of the crisis,'s editorial team knew that the audience would want detailed and up-to-the-minute coverage. Our front page started carrying only stories relating to the siege.

Seeking confirmation

Care was taken to publish information which had been confirmed by a second source – a correspondent at the scene, in most cases. The BBC Russian Service had reporters covering the siege from outside the theatre on a 24-hour basis.

Information which seemed groundbreaking was at times put on the backburner – we were prepared to sacrifice speed for accuracy.

So found itself in a unique position. Unlike most Russian media, we had access to statements by the rebels themselves who wanted to use the BBC as a medium to express their views. With these, we took a similar approach to the one used for reporting news stories.

Balancing views

All opinion-based pieces were balanced by an opposing view. Statements made by the rebels were balanced by statements by the Russian government.

In producing analytical and background pieces we had to bear in mind that the rebels might have web access from inside the theatre.

All our interviews with veterans of the Special Forces and pieces about similar operations in history had to be edited so as not to give the rebels any information which they could benefit from.

During the several days of the crisis, broadcast a phone-in radio programme and received 3,056 comments from readers.

The number of page impressions virtually doubled in the days of the crisis.

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