Putin’s Stalin-like Purge of Russian Media

Christopher Walker of Freedom House, writing in the Moscow Times:

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in order “to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.” But in Russia, there is little to celebrate.  

Using a range of restrictive measures and methods, the authorities have continued to shrink the space for independent journalism. The repressive methods used by the Kremlin has made the country an exceptionally dangerous place for journalists to work.

Last week, an unknown assailant beat Yaroslav Taroshenko, editor-in-chief of Korruptsiya i Prestupnost based in Rostov-on-Don, into a state of unconsciousness. In April, Sergei Protazanov of Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye, was killed in Khimki, in what some believe may have been a pre-emptive strike to silence him from producing critical reporting on election misconduct earlier this year. In January, Anastasia Baburova of the weekly Novaya Gazeta was gunned down with human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov in broad daylight on a Moscow street. While we are only five months into 2009, it has already been a brutal and bloody year for journalists.

If recent history is any guide, it is unlikely that any of the perpetrators of these crimes will be brought to justice. Of a string of journalists’ deaths, including notable cases such as Paul Klebnikov, editor of Forbes magazine in Russia, Anna Politkovskaya of Novaya Gazeta and Ivan Safronov of Kommersant, none has been solved.

The impunity with which these crimes have been committed is telling. This dysfunctional arrangement creates a chilling effect that extends to all corners of Russia’s media landscape.

Beyond the violence and intimidation there are other examples in which the independent media are squeezed. Freedom House’s 2009 Russia media freedom report said the government owns two of the 14 daily newspapers, more than 60 percent of the 45,000 registered newspapers and periodicals and holds partial or full control of all six national television stations and two national radio stations.

The power of the state exerts its most important influence through control of television. This dominance allows the government to shape the news and the perceptions of those who consume it. Most Russians rely on television as their prime source of information, and they don’t hear the criticisms of Kremlin opponents because networks, with Kremlin prodding, have placed these opponents on their blacklist. At a time when critical analysis of government policies is sorely needed, it is worrisome that media oriented toward entertainment and propaganda has gained such a foothold.

True, the Internet has become an increasingly important alternative outlet for informing and engaging Russian audiences, but as Internet penetration has increased, so have the authorities’ measures to interfere with users’ rights. These were among the principal findings from Freedom House’s recently released study, “Freedom on the Net.”

The authorities have also sought to muzzle foreign media outlets, including the programming of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the BBC and Voice of America. The Kremlin has undertaken a systematic intimidation campaign in which RFE/RL’s Russian partners have been subjected to harassment. In a span of eight years, a total of 26 RFE/RL affiliates have been knocked off the air. Today, only seven remain.

While the slide is unambiguous in our findings, one of the distinct features of Russia’s modern authoritarian model is that, unlike the Soviet model, it does not attempt to control every medial outlet. Instead, the authorities have adapted their approach and now seek to prevent or disrupt only what its politically consequential, either through direct control or indirect interference. Where the state does not have direct control, proxies like government-controlled Gazprom Media — which owns television networks, radio stations and newspapers — perform a similar function, with the possible exception of Ekho Moskvy radio.

By using and abusing the law, the authorities have despoiled the environment for independent media. Today, independent reporting on sensitive issues occurs as an exception to the rule. When it does occur, it often comes at a great cost. The courageous journalists at Novaya Gazeta can attest to this harsh reality.

12 responses to “Putin’s Stalin-like Purge of Russian Media

  1. What I don’t understand it that so many brave Russian journalists gave their lives for the truth. Putin has cowed the rest of the journalists to be his lap poddles. But in America, our journalists don’t care for the truth either. They are Obama’s lap poddles. Obama didn’t have take any of them out to do it. I think Putin’s done it the hard way.

    • In the US the MSM was hijacked by the left decades ago. They aren’t Obama’s poodles, they anointed him from the beginning, he is their collective face. They are willing useful idiots.

      Putin inherited an open press from the Yeltsin years which had to be extinguished.

      Journalists in my opinion are the most sheeple like, ethically challenged lot anywhere you find them. In the West they are self-censoring pc lackeys – remember the Mohammed cartoon episode across all newsrooms where all but a few exceptions cowered.

      The MSM can’t die fast enough in the west.

      • Journalists in my opinion are the most sheeple like, ethically challenged lot anywhere you find them. In the West they are self-censoring pc lackeys – remember the Mohammed cartoon episode across all newsrooms where all but a few exceptions cowered.

        You are absolutely right about the press. They are all about sensationalism, such as “Global Warming”. Any thing that will get a headline. Are you from a red state, or a conservative in a blue state?

      • Hey guys, I’m a leftist. No, really.

        I’m a social democrat. If it was 1917 in Russia I’d be a (so-called) Menshevik. If it was 1930-40s in Britain I’d be like Blair (and by Blair, I mean Orwell).

  2. I especially like the Eagle, well done on finding those AB!
    I also like the photo’s of the Russians being chummy with their great mates the Nazi’s in 1939!

  3. AB, thank you indeed! There is one picture (Soviet deportation of people of Latvia, 1941) strike home. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were in those cattle-cars. He later died in Kazakhstan prison; she survived exile in Siberia…

  4. My mother was born in Siberia in 1949(grandmother was deported in 1940) and returned home only at 60`s.

  5. Hey guys, I’m a leftist. No, really.

    I’m a social democrat. If it was 1917 in Russia I’d be a (so-called) Menshevik. If it was 1930-40s in Britain I’d be like Blair (and by Blair, I mean Orwell).

    Anyone who is a leftist is a narcissist. Because if you pick up any economic textbook today, any economist worth his salt will say that the society is much better off under a market system. yet, the deranged people who call themselves progressive believe otherwise and force their values on others and way of life on others. If you sincerely wanted to maximize meeting people’s need, then you would favor a market system, but a market system runs contrary to your beliefs. You are stuck in an endless conundrum that can not be solved by a liter full of latte at your local cafe at 2 AM. Put down Derrida, and pick up Milton Friedman or Hayek and perhaps you will learn how you truly can make a difference. Now get out of here.

    • Haha, no.

      Also, you seriously think I’d prefer the totally discredited central-planned economy over market system? Even most of the (so-called) communists are now economically quite capitalist :)

  6. This has been the policy, procedure, and practice of the kremlin for centuries.

    Memoradum on Marietta Shaginian’s Novel


    Regarding Marietta Shaginian’s novel, Ticket to history, part one,
    the Ul’ianov family

    …the Central Committee has determined that as a
    biographical-documentary novel about the life of the Ul’ianov
    family, and also about the childhood and youth of Lenin, it appears
    to be a politically harmful, ideologically hostile work. One
    should consider it a gross political error on the part of the
    book’s editor, Comrade Ermilov, and those in charge who permitted
    Shaginian’s novel to be printed.

    One condemns the behavior of Comrade Krupskaia, who having
    received a draft copy of Shaginian’s novel not only did not prevent
    the novel’s publication, but instead, encouraged Shaginian in every
    way possible, reviewed the draft positively and advised Shaginian
    on the facts of the Ul’ianov family’s life. One should also
    consider Comrade Krupskaia completely responsible for this book.

    One should consider the behavior of Comrade Krupskaia all the
    more intolerable and tactless, since Comrade Krupskaia was in
    charge of Shaginian’s task of writing a novel about Lenin without
    the knowledge and approval of the Central Committee, behind the
    back of the Central Committee, turning the very same all-party
    matter of composing a literary work about Lenin into a private and
    family affair, appearing in the role of sole exploiter of the
    circumstances of the social and personal life and works of Lenin
    and his family, for which the Central Committee never granted
    anyone exclusive rights.

    The Central Committee resolves

    1) to remove Comrade Ermilov from the position of editor of
    “Krasnaia Nov'”
    2) to announce the reprimand of the director of GIKhL [State
    Publishing House of Belle Lettres] Comrade…
    3) to apprise Krupskaia of her error
    4) to prohibit anyone from submitting a literary work about Lenin
    without the knowledge and permission of the Central Committee
    5) to question Shaginian’s party membership in the KPK (Control
    Commission of the Communist Party).

  7. Pingback: » The Bad News Is That Good News Isn’t Free - Dissociated Press

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