Dec 2, 2008

The Economist's Potemkin Russia

Last week, The Economist published a special report on Russia. At the time, Eternal Remont was four servings into a triphtophan coma and deep into the wonders of warm apple cider, 70 proof rakia, and a light dusting of cinnamon (I call it a Todor Zhivkov). Maybe that's why this throw-away line from said report has all the sting of a vicious hangover:

"[Russians] are even free to criticise the Kremlin on radio, in print and on the internet, though not on television."

Wait one second. That doesn't sound too bad. I mean, who really watches television anyway? The report continues, "Mr Putin has positioned himself as the symbol of a resurgent nation recovering from years of humiliation and weakness." And you can't fault the guy for that.

"Despite public objections, Russia’s Parliament also passed amendments to the Law on Fighting Extremist Activity, which Putin signed in July [2006]. The measure expanded the definition of extremism to include media criticism of public officials and authorized up to three years’ imprisonment for journalists as well as the suspension or closure of their publications if they were convicted. "

The Economist is guilty of many sins. But woefully misrepresenting press freedom isn't usually among them. I think I'll make another Todor Zhivkov until it all makes sense again.

(Thanks to for the pic.)


Dmitri Minaev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dmitri Minaev said...

I recall an old Soviet joke. A typical slogan of those times was: "Everything for the benefit of the man". "And we know the name of the man," we grunted.

> [Russians] are even free to criticise the Kremlin on radio,

And we know the name of the radio: Echo of Moscow. Not any other radio.

> in print

In the New Times magazine and Novaya Gazeta newspaper. Not anywhere else.

> though not on television

Actually, there's one TV channel, Ren TV, where the news team is rather critical about the Putin's politics. Curiously, the channel belongs to a Putin's friend.

Ern said...

"Critical of Putin" how exactly, though? I mean, is it "show" criticism? Does it have any other actual value than to show "yes we have a 'free' media in Russia"?

Pirates(and)Diplomats said...

Good point Dmitri. We're going to have to run some Ren TV on Eternal Remont.

Dmitri Minaev said...


I'd say that Marianna Maksimovskaya, the presenter of the Ren TV weekly news program is quite serious about that. Recently they hired Mikhail Osokin, former newscaster on the deceased NTV and now they have a good daily news program, too.

I'm afraid they are not influential enough, but it will only increase their chances for a long and happy life in the air :)

Ern said...

Very interesting. We will definitely look more into RenTV then. Thanks!

L. Julius Maximus said...

Sorry for not recalling the author, but one prominent Russian analyst has labelled the recent processes on Russian TV as "Petrosyanizatsiya", meaning that all interesting on TV nowadays are comic shows by Petrosyan's theatre.

BTW, same in other CIS countries - showbiz rules everywhere, while independent media moves from TV to radio and internet. But unfortunately, not everbody listens to radio and surfes internet, but almost everbody watches TV. said...

Gosh, there's a lot of helpful material above!