Category Archives: freedom of speech

Shameless Barbarism in the Russian Duma

The Moscow Times reports:

United Russia has prevented lawmakers from debating police violence at a Moscow opposition rally this week, a Communist State Duma deputy said Thursday.

City police detained more than 150 people at an unsanctioned rally Monday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, and about two dozen people claimed that they were beaten or attacked as law enforcement officials tried to break up the event.

Sergei Obukhov, a Duma deputy with the Communist Party, tried to discuss the rally at the chamber’s session on Wednesday, he told The Moscow Times.

But his microphone was switched off by Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, a United Russia deputy, because the issue was not on the formal agenda, Obukhov said.

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EDITORIAL: Neo-Soviet Russia, once again Gagged


Neo-Soviet Russia, once again Gagged

Russia ranked #141 on the Reporters without Borders international press freedom survey in 2008, out of 173 nations surveyed — the bottom fifth of all countries in the world.  But if you thought Russia had noplace to go but up from there, you were very much mistaken.

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The End of Free Expression in Russia

Two-thirds of all Russian radio stations which previously broadcast programs from Radio Free Europe have been shut down by Vladimir Putin. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Walker of Freedom House sounds the clarion call of alarm at the final consolidation of neo-Soviet dictatatorship, making the point we’ve made here on this blog many times before: If Dmitri Medvedev has real authority, that would be worse for Russia than if he doesn’t, because it would mean Putinism can continue without Putin at the helm.

Ten years ago on Sunday, Russia’s Duma confirmed Vladimir Putin as prime minister. The vote took place only one week after then-President Boris Yeltsin had nominated the little-known former KGB operative for the post. Yeltsin’s surprise resignation only four months later left Mr. Putin as acting president and paved the way for his election as head of state in March 2000. This swift and far-from-transparent ascent to the pinnacle of Russian power was a sign of things to come.

Over the past decade Vladimir Putin has used the instruments of the state to forge what is known in Russian as a “vertical of power,” a governance model in which authority is tightly consolidated at the top. Putinism captured the Russian zeitgeist as people were hungry for stability, or at least the appearance of stability. The system’s core features include the political control of the country’s dominant energy sector, the quest to restore Russia’s global power status, and a heavy-handed reassertion of Russian influence in former Soviet states.

The most striking quality of Putinism, though, is its hostility to free expression. This decade-long assault on a fundamental human right is not a reprise of the uniform, all-encompassing ideological control that was the hallmark of the Soviet period. To give Russia the veneer of a liberal society and simultaneously create a useful societal steam valve, authorities have come up with a new, selective censorship model. In this system, the state tries to censor information of true political consequence while allowing a certain amount of independence at the margins.

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Another Original LR Translation: Russia’s Lethal Bunnies

kbtop21Translator’s Note:  The following is just too funny and just too sad. What better example could one wish for of a country and people who have not just completely lost their way but actually appear to have lost any sense of honour and pride. One has to have completely lost one’s moral compass to act as described below. It is beyond imagining that the British or US (or indeed almost any other) army could sink to this. The danger, of course, is that although the event in question was totally harmless, an army so devoid of morals or pride will as a matter of course sink to anything, including atrocities.

Orchestra Leadership Will be Punished For Parade in Bunny Costumes

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel reports that the tribunal of the Leningrad Military District has completed its investigation of the military band which performed in bunny costumes, the symbol of Playboy magazine, at a private evening parry.

The district’s military prosecutors have completed their report which has been to the CiC of Leningrad Military District Andrei Tretyak. The document demands the prosecution of Sergei Yezhov, the officer commanding the 5th Military Orchestra of the Leningrad Military District as well as of his second in command and head of music Sergei Vovka.

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EDITORIAL: You can’t take the Russia out of a Russian


You can’t take the Russia out of a Russian

You can take the Russian out of Russia but you can’t take the Russia out of a Russian.

Last week the world learned the horrifying news that the Putin regime had assumed yet another godawful dictatorial power.  Not content with appointing governors and mayors, the regime now claims the right to open anyone’s mail, whenever it feels like doing so.  Security services also now have access to post office databases, which show customer addresses and past use of the postal system.   What’s more, the Kremlin is moving to crack down on Internet communciation services like Skype, having already obtained the abilitty to read ordinary e-mails and receive person information from ISPs through the infamous “SORM” regulations.

Internationally known Russian human rights activists Lev Ponomarev told RIA Novosti that the move was “totally unacceptable” and “unconstitutional,” and said that he is . . . .preparing an open letter to Dmitri Medvedev.

An open letter, Mr. Ponomarev?  Gosh, are you sure you want to go as far as that? Isn’t it a bit of an overreaction?  Perhaps a postcard would be enough?

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EDITORIAL: A True Russian Patriot Speaks


A True Russian Patriot Speaks

Dmitri Muratov, Russian Patriot

Dmitri Muratov, Russian Patriot

When asked his dream, he answered:  “To see no more of my reporters killed.”

When asked why he continues to risk his own life, he replied:

Because we think that a newspaper is a service provided to a fair people. Because I don’t want the world to think that my country is a country where the gene of Stalin will live forever. There is a question why today in official text books in Russia – on a number of official sites, including the ministry of defence – Mr Stalin is called ‘an efficient state manager’, when what they would like to say is that efficiency in management is the same as violence. Why would the ruling elite do that in Russia? What they probably mean to say, and what they try to make us believe, is that the state, the government, is the supreme value of our life, the sun, the god. And corruption is the special profession attached to this god.

When asked about the motivations of those who govern Russia, he answered bluntly:  “They want to rule as Stalin did and live as Abramovich does.”

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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.

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Separate but Unequal: The Duality of Free Speech in Russia

N. S. Rubashov, publisher of the excellent new Russia blog Darkness at Noon, has submitted to La Russophobe the following interesting and insightful analysis of the recent report by an international media organization that Russia is the most dangerous nation in the world not at war for a journalist to work in.

Separate but Unequal: The Duality of Free Speech in Russia

The recent release of INSI’s report entitled “Killing the Messenger” quickly gained the attention of Russia watchers owing to the sensational revelation that Russia ranks among the most dangerous places on earth for reporters. At least one Russia forum, the blog Siberian Light, was intrigued by the contrast between these statistics and those suggesting that for ordinary people, Moscow is a safer city than, for example, Washington DC. While La Russophobe has challenged the validity of these statistics, the fact remains that in Russia, there is a wide gap between the threats posed to journalists and other critics of the Kremlin and the threats posed to ordinary citizens. While we are becoming all too familiar with mysterious deaths and arrests of prominent critics, there does not appear to be a simultaneous effort to eliminate criticism of the state throughout all strata of society.

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