* Azarov takes softer line after angry reaction to media
* Political ally criticises PM for being "emotional"
* Relations with media have worsened under Yanukovich
KIEV, May 23 Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola
Azarov backed down on Thursday from his order to revoke the
official accreditation of a dozen local reporters after they
displayed slogans at a cabinet meeting to protest against an
attack on two colleagues.
The dour 65-year-old reacted sharply on Wednesday when the
reporters displayed slogans demanding an investigation into the
beating of two reporters at a political rally last Saturday.
Azarov, who has headed the government since President Viktor
Yanukovich came to power in February 2010, told aides to strip
the journalists of their reporting rights so that they could no
longer cover government meetings.
But on Thursday Azarov met the same journalists and adopted
a softer tone. "You are welcome to attend cabinet meetings and I
hope that this incident will be the last one," he told them,
according to a video released by the government.
Azarov's initial reaction prompted criticism not only from
opposition politicians and other journalists, who staged a fresh
protest next to his office on Thursday, but also from within the
ruling Party of the Regions.
Hanna Herman, a parliament deputy from the Regions,
described his words as "emotional" on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko, who also attended the
meeting with the journalists on Thursday, said police were
investigating Saturday's beating of two reporters who were
covering clashes between supporters and opponents of Yanukovich
in Kiev while police allegedly did nothing.
Yanukovich relations with the media became strained as he
consolidated power by installing his allies in key positions and
reversing constitutional changes that had strengthened
In March several reporters attended a Yanukovich news
conferences wearing paper masks of the president. And last year
a dozen journalists stood up and raised anti-censorship banners
when Yanukovich hailed Ukraine's march to media freedom at the
World Newspaper Congress in Kiev.
Some journalists complain the government is cracking down on
media freedom and self-censorship has become common among the
media, most of which are controlled by influential businessmen.
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth and