Sunday, April 22, 2007

The New Russian censorship `50% good news and America to be portrayed as an enemy'

As press censorship in Russia increases and the government increasingly takes over the media, there are new rules for journalists - demands by the goverment for 50% `good news' and for the US to be portrayed as an enemy.

Russia's largest independent radio network, the Russian News Service was recently taken over by businesses loyal to the Kremlin, including Lukoil, though the exact ownership structure is not public. At their first meeting with journalists since taking control, the managers laid down the law to broadcasters and journalists - from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, according to journalists employed by the network.

What was defined as `positive news'?

“When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

Well, maybe not the weather....not in Russia.

The radio news had been a significant source of independent journalism in Russia, and aside from its own broadcasts provided news updates for a network of music-formatted radio stations, called Russian Radio, with seven million listeners . Now, the implementation of this “50 percent positive” rule at the Russian News Service sharply reduces the small number of news outlets not controlled by the Kremlin, directly or through the state national gas company, Gazprom,which is a major owner of media outlets.

The three national television networks are already state controlled. Rossiya and Channel One are owned by the state, while NTV was seized from a Kremlin critic in 2001 and now belongs to Gazprom. Last weekend, the state channels mostly ignored the violent dispersal of opposition protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where 54 people were beaten bad enough by police to require medical treatment, according to Human Rights Watch.

But the lead story that day on Rossiya TV showcased Russian Premier Vladimir Putin attending a martial arts competition, with the Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme as his guest.

This month, the Russian Parliament passed a measure banning “extremism” in politics and state prosecutors have gone after individuals who post critical comments on Web chat rooms.

Not only that, but the Parliament is also considering extending state control to Internet sites that report news, as more Russians become affluent enough to have computers.

On Tuesday, the police raided the Educated Media Foundation, a nongovernmental group sponsored by United States and European donors that's mission is to nuture an independent news media in Russia over the web. The police seized records and computers used as servers for the Web sites of independent groups, which caused a number of them to go dark. One of them was a Web site run by the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a media rights group, which published bulletins on violations of press freedoms.

The tactics used against independent media in Russia are more sophisticated than the old Soviet iron hand. Instead, the government is imposing state ownership on media companies throgh government owned companies like Gazprom, and replacing editors critical of the Putin government with loyalists.

New censorship laws are often vague in content, with lots of leeway for their selective interpertation.

The Russian government appears to be orchestrating a crackdown on political opposition ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in the fall that are being carefully orchestrated by the Putin government to pretty much make the legislature a rubber stamp.


Anonymous said...

Russia has been treating the US as an enemy for a long time. Hopefully this will be enough to finally wake US policy makers up. To date, American political leaders seem to have huge blind spot with regards to Russia.

Right now Russia is actively trying to undermine the US but the US regards Russia as a "friend" and an "ally." This will need to change. Russia is the greatest threat in the world to the US, Western Europe, and Israel. I pray that Western European, Israeli, and American leaders wake up in time to deal effectively with this threat.

Anonymous said...

uh yeah,
and just when has russia not been our enemy??????

Hopefully this will be enough to finally wake US policy makers up.

yeah, good luck with that.