Number 144. That’s what Reporters sans frontieres ranks Russia in its new annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. According to RSF, the index is complied from questionnaires sent to 15 freedom of expression organizations and a network of 130 correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists, and human rights activists around the world. The index ranks 169 nations.
Russia’s ranking is surely nothing to be proud of, especially considering Russia’s indexed neighbors. The five states ranked above Russia are Azerbaijan (139), Sudan (140), Singapore (141), Afghanistan (142), and Yemen (143). The five states Russia looks down on are Tunisia (145), Egypt (146), Rwanda (147), Saudi Arabia (148), and Zimbabwe (149). As a whole, being sandwiched between these ten states makes Russia the rotten meat in a moldy press freedom sandwich.
As for why Russia ranked so low, RSF said this: “Russia is not progressing. Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in October 2006, the failure to punish those responsible for murdering journalists, and the still glaring lack of diversity in the media, especially the broadcast media, weighed heavily in the evaluation of press freedom in Russia.” Once again, the Politikovskaya murder hangs over Russia’s international standing like a bit lead albatross.
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By Sean — 3 years ago
Keith Gessen, journalist, translator, and writer. He’s one of the founders of N+1 Magazine and the translator of Kirill Medvedev’s It’s No Good: Poems / Essays /Actions. His most recent article is “Western Journalists in Ukraine” part of N+1’s special symposium on Ukraine.
There are a few texts mentioned in the interview. Here they are for those interested:
- Paul Starobin, “The Eternal Collapse of Russia.”
- Alexei Yurchak, Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation.
- David Foglesong, The American Mission and the ‘Evil Empire’: The Crusade for a ‘Free Russia’ since 1881.
- Perry Anderson, “Incommensurate Russia.”
By Sean — 10 years ago
The press finally caught up with the eXile‘s demise with the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Fox News, the International Heral Tribune, the London Telegraph, UPI, among others, all reporting the story. All of them basically say the same information repeated ad nauseum, i.e. the irreverent paper folded after Russian inspectors scared off its investors. Even the Committee to Protect Journalists released a News Alert. My favorite headline comes from Danwei from Hong Kong. “Death of the Rude Russian Exile,” its report reads. As Jeremy Goldkorn, the piece’s author, points out,
As far as your correspondent knows, no foreigner has ever tried to publish anything like The Exile in China. The closest thing I have seen is the rather inward-looking and music obsessed Eight Inches of Arsehole, a photocopied zine that was distributed in bars in Beijing and amongst the expatriate hipster musician types and people with strong thoughts about Beijing expatriate magazines.
But it was photocopied, anonymous, and had no advertising or pretense of being commercial media. And they never touched politics.
Makes you wonder why Russia, and not China, is more the scourge of all freedom lovers.
It also makes me wonder why almost all of the reports listed above never mentioned the “e” word. Not even the lefty Mother Jones made the fact that the eXile was being audited for extremism an issue, despite hailing it as the “World’s Best Alt-Weekly” (the word only appears in a quote one of Ames’ Radar Online posts.) In fact, according to one of my handy dandy LexisNexis searches, extremism only appears into two articles on the subject. One written by Ames himself and the BBC Monitoring Service‘s translation of Limonov’s article. How strange. Especially since if anyone wants to make a bigger political issue out of the eXile‘s demise, Russia’s elastic extremism law is surely the issue.
As for Ames’ whereabouts, we might want to dust off an old Where’s Waldo? games. According to Ames’ latest dispatch, he could be in London (or even here in LA) or undergoing a water boarding session in a back room at Sheremetyevo.
Before Ames shipped out of Russia, he got the unique pleasure to debate Nashist and Duma rep Robert Schlegel on Moscow’s Govorit Moskva, 92.0 FM. About a month and a half ago Schlegel tried to make his legislative mark by introducing a bill to further harden Russia libel law. President Medvedev shot him down. Schlegel, as Ames describes him, “isn’t entirely human the way you and I are, but is rather some kind of genetically engineered Boys From Brazil product, created so that he might one day serve a cruel and scary tyrant.” Indeed. If you take a look at Radar‘s accompanying photo, you will see that no Russian has looked this Aryan since Ivan Drago.
The debate went as expected. You can read a transcipt (in Russian) here.
Perhaps the most interesting mainstream article on the “eXile Affair” (If there can be a Litvinenko Affair why not an eXile one?), was an article in the Moscow Times (reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times) by Owen Mathews. He argues that the eXile’s demise has much more symbolic meaning. He writes,
The story of The eXile is the story of an earlier, pre-boom Moscow, before gourmet supermarkets and sushi restaurants sprouted on every corner. The eXile was born in a place that was dark, vibrant and absolutely compelling. The money, the sin and the beautiful people — it was doomed, apocalyptic and transiently beautiful. The incandescent energy of the pretty, deluded party kids whom the paper wrote about could have lit up this blighted country for a century if channeled into anything other than self-destruction and oblivion.
Perhaps the end of the eXile is symbolic of Russia crossing the Rubicon into a full fledged Putinian utopia.
By Sean — 11 years ago
I stumbled across Shaun Walker’s “No Laughing Matter: Cartoons and the Kremlin” while perusing Kompromat.ru. I only realized after a few minutes that the article was originally published in the Independent and translated for InoPressa.ru (interestingly without the above caricature).
No laughing matter indeed. As noted Russian cartoonist Mikhail Zlatkovsky tells Walker, what was once permitted under Gorbachev and Yeltsin is taboo under Putin. Zlatkovsky’s satires of the vozhd’ abruptly came to an end after Putin’s inauguration in May 2000. It was then that his editor at Literaturnaya gazeta informed him, “Misha, we’re not going to draw Putin any more. The young lad is very sensitive.” Zlatkovsky’s drawings of Putin haven’t appeared in the press since. And soon after that neither did his and many other cartoonists’ satires of ministers, Kremlin aids, Chechnya, and military brass. Even a drawing of Patriarch Alexy II “prompted a phone call from the patriarchate and a strong request never to draw him again.”
Zlatkovsky tells Walker that while there is no official censorship, there is “the censorship of the fire safety inspectorate; or the censorship of the tax police.” Bureaucratic revenge may be softer, but it is just as effective, if not more so, than good old fashion repression. The result, according to Walker is that “Many cartoonists have given up, finding other work, and newspaper editors prefer to err on the side of caution and not publish cartoons at all.” I would guess that this is exactly what those in power hoped.
Therefore it is no surprise that yet again Freedom House has labeled Russia’s press “not free.” There does, however, seem to be a twinkle of light in the darkness. According to Izvestiia, young Robert Shlegel got a finger waging by senior United Russia officials for introducing the media law amendment. One of United Russia’s four factions, 4 November, released a statement saying, “Oversight and law enforcement organs already have sufficient opportunities to put an end to the activities of unscrupulous journalists without jeopardizing the freedom of the mass media.” (Yes, there are four official factions in United Russia. They officially constituted themselves at their party congress two weeks ago. Who knew?) Basically, 4 November thinks that the amendment is redundant. Whether their opposition and Shlegel’s shaming will have any impact on the voting of future readings is uncertain and probably unlikely. Given how widely the amendment hit the international press, I’m sure this is all posturing. After all, the law’s first reading passed unanimously minus one. Boris Reznik of United Russia cast the lone dissenting vote. Um, 4 November members, where were you?