Mirror, Mirror: The State of Journalism in Modern-Day Russia
IMAGE VIA RUSSIA INSIDER
It is no secret that the “free” press is something of a joke in Russia. Elections for the presidency and for the Duma (the Lower House) are falsely democratic, no independent judiciary exists, and the mass media - Channels One and Two - are largely state-run. The Kremlin is the Big Brother that the majority of the Russian population is only too apathetic to accept. Their lack of freedom has debilitated them, to the extent that they have lost the will to fight. There is no hope. Yet some Russians still speak out.
Many of the most vocal critics of Putin’s administration are from within Russia itself - namely its journalists. After all, words have the power to expose the truth-long after one is dead or assassinated. Much of Putin’s administration is bogged down in obscurity. Among these events that have no clear explanation are ritual killings, terrorist and suicide bombings, the corrupted lifestyle of the rich, the Sochi Olympics, the Russian financial crisis, the War in Ukraine-and this is only recently, not to mention the Chechen Wars. The mass media simply blocks out information. For instance, just last week, Channel One released a broadcast proclaiming that “peace [was returning] to Aleppo.”
This is the reason why the Russian people are apathetic and unwilling to introduce change-because they are unaware of the calamities that exist outside of their sphere-either that, or unwilling to accept them. There is no other way for them to learn of the truth, and while very few of them trust the media, 50% of the Russian public (according to a 2003 poll) trust Putin. His administration spins events so that the world-Russia, in particular-seem Utopian, even if they clearly are not. In comparison with Russian media, Western media proclaims Aleppo as one of the worst atrocities of the century. The Russian media are by and far selective in the news it wishes to portray. Putin’s administration chooses the snippets of the news that portray their own administration in the most positive light, and all other news is censored. With state-run media with censorship checks at every stage of the editing and publishing process, there is no way to communicate the truth-at least not legally.
Those journalists and reporters who do report the truth are, at best, excoriated by Putin. Their salaries are a pittance compared to those reporters who are willing to be manipulated. As a result, the ability for journalists to carry out their job without outside influence, typically governmental, is incredibly limited. Many journalists are not only swayed by the Kremlin due to offers of money and prestige, but out of fear for their lives and for the lives of their families. Those who speak out against the United Russia party and its affiliated organizations risk a fate worse than death: silence. In recent years, fewer journalists are being killed. Yet dissenters are not. Just last year, Boris Nemtsov, a major political dissident, was assassinated. Moreover, the freedom of speech, expression, and the press are severely limited-now more than ever. In 2014, new laws extended the administration’s control over the media. All of the major political television shows that were not state-run have been off the air since 2003. Free press has been excluded to the internet, and even there, it is being persecuted. The crisis in Russia is not a disaster of the past. It is an emergency.