The bleakness of Russian media is often citied as one of the clearest examples of Putin’s creeping authoritarianism. State control of television, its concentration under fewer and fewer corporations, the harassment and murder of journalists, police raids of media NGOs, newspaper and journal offices, evicting the Union of Russian Journalists from their offices, instituting “positive coverage” rules, and self-censorship are just a few of the things Russian journalists have to deal with to practice their craft. But as Katrina Vanden Heuvel of the Nation reminds us, the bleak times also produce solidarity.
What is heartening are signs of solidarity among Russian journalists. A few weeks ago, for example, Tv2, located in the Siberian city of Tomsk, posted an open letter to President Putin in defense of independent media (and specifically in support of the Educated Media Foundation.) Within a few days more than 2000 journalists from almost all Russian regions had signed the petition.
And just a few days ago, all four of the radio correspondents for the Russian News Service, which provides news for three major radio stations serving about 8 million people, submitted letters of resignation. Artem Khan, a correspondent for the Service, said that he and all of his colleagues have walked out because of “censorship” and “pressure” to disseminate pro-Kremlin material from the company’s news executives who took control in April.
It is Russian journalists who will wage the most effective protests against attacks on media freedom. It is, after all, their country and their citizens who are being deprived of the independent and free flow of information.
Let us hope that these are signs that journalists are now beginning to fight back.