EDITORIAL: The Moscow Times, Asleep at the Switch


The Moscow Times, Asleep at the Switch

Writing on Pajamas Media a while back, our founder Kim Zigfeld has documented the appalling extent to which the Moscow Times newspaper is backing away from its previously heroic coverage of neo-Soviet barbarism in Russia.  The most odious example of this noxious trend has been the paper’s stubborn unwillingness to give prominent coverage to the heroism of dissident leader Oleg Kozlovsky.

And the most repellent instance of that behavior came recently, when the paper buried the news of Kozlovsky’s human rights award in a tiny sentence at the bottom of an item about another dissident winning asylum in Ukraine. Kozlovsky hobnobbed with the likes of Mary Robinson, Sigourney Weaver and Caroline Kennedy, but you’d never know that from the pages of the Moscow Times.  He had an op-ed in the Washington Post, but readers of the MT are oblivious of that fact. He was arrested preemptively on bogus charges, went on a hunger strike and then beat the charges in an appeal, but MT readers remain in the dark about all of it. Nor will the MT publish the letters to the editor it routinely receives from Kim, one of the most powerful Russia bloggers on the planet.

Andrew McChesney, the paper’s editor, should be ashamed of himself. If you’d like to register your displeasure with McChesney, click here or FAX (7-495) 232-6529, or write The Moscow Times, 3 Polkovaya Ul., Bldg. 1, Moscow, 127018.

We’d like to chalk up this pathetic spectacle to simple incompetence, from which the MT is certainly not immune. But we can’t, because that has nothing to do with it.  The explanation is simply craven cowardice on the part of the paper’s editors, who obviously fear massive retribution by the Kremlin if they dare to publicize this heroic young man’s valiant struggles against the Kremlin. First with stinging defeat of the Kremlin’s efforts to illegally draft him,  then with his op-ed in the Post, published while in prison on bogus charges, and now with this internationally famous award, Kozlovsky is thumbing his nose at the KGB thugs who rule the country, and this means that to report about him prominently could risk the MT’s existence.

And apparently, the paper’s craven editors have decided he’s not worth it, especially in times when its failed economic policies have made the Kremlin so jumpy.  In fact, every week they manage to find more and more space to publish the senile ravings of malignant Russophile collaborators like Edward Lozansky and Peter Lavelle, without even doing their readers the service of disclosing their Kremlin affiliations.

This isn’t to say, of course, that there is nothing left of value in the paper, as our virtual pages routinely document. Undoubtedly, the paper’s editors rationalize their behavior by arguing that it allows them to at least continue reporting some of the bad news for the Putin regime. Better half a loaf than none at all, right? Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is what gave rise to the likes of Stalin.

Nor is it to say that we have any right to expect heroic bravery or self-immolation from the tin paper that undoubtedly would struggle to survive even in the best of times. But we do feel that the paper owes its readers an open acknowledgment of what it is doing and why.

Fact is, if they keep this up and follow it to its logical conclusion, the paper will soon be obsolete. And it’s simply an illusion to think that somehow doing all this will keep the paper safe.  The mere fact that it could publish something about Kozlovsky at any moment is more than sufficient reason for Putin to close the paper down.

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