A Blogosphere under Siege in Putin’s Russia
Even though, as we’ve repeatedly shown, less than a fifth of the Russian population has Internet access, that’s way too much freedom of information for the Kremlin’s taste.
Because of this, the Putin regime has been engaged in a feverish, Stalin-like crackdown on bloggers from the first moments it took power.
Alexei Sidorenko of Global Voices reports on the two most recent casualties in this final battle for the Russian soul.
On November 26th a court in Kazan convicted blogger Irek Murtazin of “defamation” and sentenced him to nearly two years in prison because he mistakenly reported that Mintimir Shaimiev, the so-called “president” of Tatarstan, had perished. The day before in Iribt Alexander Batalov, a former administrator of the official Web site for the city’s own website, was put on trial on libel charges for failing to remove anonymous comments left by someone else on the site. He faced a crippling fine of $8,000.
The message sent to bloggers is clear: You’re not allowed to make mistakes, and you’re responsible for what others write on your blog in the form of comments. That’s the same as saying you might as well not blog at all.
Meanwhile, efforts began to ban a new film on the life of Tsar Ivan Grozny (“the Terrible”) because it failed to show him in a sufficiently positive light and to ban the video game Modern Warfare because it did not show enough respect for the Russian Army.
And the neo-Soviet insanity has begun. In a feverish attempt to censor a blogger who was criticizing his former employer, the steelmaker Severstal, a Russian court ordered an entire online library shut down. The library included works by Pushkin, Lermontov and Tsvetaeva; none can now be read at the website.
Truly, we are back to the USSR. This behavior is not in any way different from the censorship that was practiced then, and the Putin regime has only just begun. Soon, Putin will be ushered in as the same type of “president for life” that Brezhenev was, and when his formal power is confirmed the crackdown will become even more draconian and the last fleeting light of the Internet will be snuffed out.