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Friday, July 07, 2006

Neo-Soviet Union Once Again Silences Voice of America, Aims at Crushing all Sources of Information

The Washington Post reports that once again the craven Kremlin can only defend itself from the truth by silencing the speaker. La Russophobe is always amazed at the manner in which Russians, while styling themselves as a brave and mighty nation, instantly turn into cowards afraid of mere words, apparently believing they can be destroyed by them. The hypocrisy of this viewpoint is truly breathtaking.

MOSCOW - Russian regulators have forced more than 60 radio stations to stop broadcasting news reports produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, according to radio managers and Russian officials. The regulators cited license violations and unauthorized changes in programming format. But senior executives at the U.S.-government-funded broadcast services and at the stations blame the Kremlin for the crackdown, which has knocked the reports off stations from St. Petersburg in western Russia to Vladivostok in the Far East."We focus primarily on domestic developments, and those are exactly the things the Kremlin has problems with," said Jeffrey N. Trimble, acting president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty -- commonly known as Radio Liberty. "This really hurts our ability to reach today's decision-makers."

The two services' straight-up reporting, often by journalists on the ground in Russian communities, has at times challenged the political establishment here. In a country where the news media increasingly avoid controversial subjects, millions of Russians had made the broadcasts a listening staple.

U.S. diplomats, managers at the two news services and their board of governors have held repeated discussions with Russian officials in recent months seeking a compromise, to no avail. "We've tried to be collegial, tried to work within the system, but this is a most unfortunate development," said Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees both services.

Later this month, the leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries will gather for a summit hosted by Russia in St. Petersburg. The meeting has prompted increased scrutiny here and abroad of the Kremlin's steps to consolidate power since the late 1990s.

Control of the mass media, particularly news and debate on national television channels, is a critical part of the Kremlin's management of political discourse in advance of parliamentary elections in 2007 and presidential elections in 2008.

After Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, the country's major TV channels, the most important media because of their reach, were quickly brought under state control or shut down. State-controlled or state-friendly businesses have been buying up newspapers and radio stations. Outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, media outlets routinely come under the sway of local governors, most of whom are loyal to the Kremlin.

Independent newspapers and radio stations continue to operate. But with their largest audiences in the country's two largest cities, their influence in national politics and voting is marginal.

Radio Liberty and Voice of America are underwritten by the U.S. government but produce independent journalism in many languages, including Russian, though the White House has proposed ending Voice of America's Russian-language content. Both services developed a network of media partners across Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Those stations had been airing about an hour of news from the services in the morning and evening, along with some shorter bulletins.

Of the 30 affiliate stations Radio Liberty had in Russia in 2005, it now has only four, according to Trimble. Of the 42 stations that rebroadcast material from Voice of America in 2005, only five are still working with the organization, according to the board of governors.

Russian stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where there is much greater official tolerance for media diversity, continue to broadcast programming from the organizations. Radio Liberty also operates its own frequency in Moscow. "But elections are won and lost in the provinces," said a manager at Radio Liberty.

The first sign of the change came last September, when the Culture Ministry, which handles the licensing of broadcasters, began a series of audits of these stations and others.

In interviews, officials at the ministry characterized the audits as a normal and legal part of the ministry's mission and said there was no targeted attempt to force the American radio services off the air.

Rather, they said, officials were ensuring compliance with Russian law, which states that when broadcasters obtain their licenses they must indicate whether they intend to re-broadcast material from other entities. None of the affected stations had followed the law, officials said.

"We do not have any problem with Radio Liberty or Voice of America," said Yevgeny Strelchik, an adviser to the Culture Ministry's top mass media official. "But if our radio stations change their concept, they should say so, and then the commission will decide whether to approve it or not. They can't broadcast somebody else's product without having the license for it. . . . This is the law."

He also said: "You should ask the general director of Radio Russia how hard it is to get a license to broadcast in the U.S. He tried many times. Their requirements are much stricter."

Russian partners of the U.S. services said in interviews that they valued the American programming but feared they would lose their licenses if they continued to carry it. Managers and journalists at Russian stations said they felt clear pressure from bureaucrats to drop the programming and to make no attempt to get a license that would allow the American material to remain on the air. Two stations that did apply for revised licenses to broadcast Radio Liberty were denied, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

One radio manager said: "Of course, I felt the pressure. . . . They never tell you anything directly. Instead they come up with numerous complaints trying to find faults, they start their checkups, they would be looking at your license over and over again. But the message is clear."

Management and employees at the station spoke on condition that they and their stations not be identified, because they feared that if they commented publicly, their stations would be shut down.

"It's sad because the programs were very popular," said a manager at another station. "The owners decided that they would rather have their license, because if they kept the programming they would have been in trouble."

Radio Liberty, with about 60 staff journalists in Russia and nearly 200 freelance contributors, is one of largest news organizations in the country.

Last year Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky interviewed Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord who asserts responsibility for the hostage-taking at a school in Beslan, which ended with the deaths of 331 people, most of them schoolchildren. Radio Liberty opted not to run the material, but it was later broadcast on ABC's "Nightline." The Russian government was outraged and decided not to renew the accreditations of ABC journalists.

Staff and management at Radio Liberty, Voice of America and their board of governors suspect that the dispute led the ministry to act against the news organizations.

Yet another sign of the Neo-Soviet apocalypse.
Further, CBS News reports that this is far from an isolated event, but rather part of a conscious plan by the Kremlin to destroy the media:

Things Russian President Vladimir Putin likes: The KGB, judo, kitten-like 5-year-old boys.

Things Russian President Vladimir Putin dislikes: Vladimir Gusinsky, Chechen separatists, journalists who talk to them.

The latest evidence of that last one is the case of Thomas de Waal, a well-known British journalist who covers Chechnya. He was refused a visa for reasons of "state security." Here's Reuters with some background:
Russian officials have been very sensitive about Western criticism of the war in Chechnya, where they have struggled to crush separatism for more than a decade, and local journalists have been prosecuted for sympathising with the rebels.

President Vladimir Putin in 2002 said a foreign journalist critical of Russia's policy in the region become a Muslim and be circumcised "in such a way that nothing grows back."
Ouch. Press advocates say that the Kremlin uses intimidation to get journalists to report only its position on the Chechnya conflict. ABC News was reportedly banned from Russia due to an interview it ran with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

Last month, Beth Knobel wrote a dispatch for us on what it's like to be a foreign correspondent in Russia. Here is one of the questions Putin was asked by a local journalist at a press conference this year:
"Mr President, to be honest, when I came here I also wanted to ask serious and intelligent questions, but now that our discussion is into its third hour, I realize that I'm just going to have to pull myself together and on behalf of all the blond women in this room ask what is perhaps a stupid and silly question: what do you do to always stay looking so good? Do you use anything particular to restore your youth and good looks?"
Pay no attention to the conflict behind the curtain!

Finally there is this from the Guardian:

A further clamp on journalism has been approved by Russia's parliament as part of wide-ranging measures to fight terrorism. The Duma, in approving the right of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to engage in counter-terrorism operations outside Russia, agreed that the media should be forbidden from publishing any information about such operations that might "threaten peoples' lives and health". Special "emergency" centres will regulate the activities of journalists. (Via easybourse.com)

If Russians were really serious about fighting terrorism, they'd start by impeaching the terrorist they have "elected" president.

7 comments:

Winston said...

So where are you now Reith?

I seem to remember the bitter sarcasm you directed against me some weeks ago when I suggested (what every sane person knows, so it wasn't rocket science) that the media in Russia was being gagged.

Day after day this blog cites example after example of the continued supression of free speech.

Any comment? I wonder how you can twist this one?

Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

The Wall Street Journal
November 3, 2005




Ideologue of Empire



Chances are, you've never heard of Alexander Dugin. In the U.S. and Europe, the soft-spoken Russian political philosopher is still very much a marginal figure. But within Russia itself, the 43-year-old strategist has become an influential political force. And, increasingly, his radical ideas about a reconstituted, anti-Western empire are making their mark on Russian foreign policy.
Mr. Dugin's political past is mired in controversy. During the 1980s, he reportedly worked as an archivist for the KGB, where he was exposed to, and influenced by, the ideas of the early "Eurasianists" -- Russian thinkers like Lev Gumilyov who, in the early 1900s, had modernized and popularized the idea of Russia's historical destiny as an empire. A one-time fascist, Mr. Dugin joined forces with controversial writer/activist Eduard Limonov in the early 1990s to form the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), using it as a platform to advocate a "conservative revolution" pitting Russia against the West.
By the late 1990s, however, Mr. Dugin had broken with Mr. Limonov and the NBP in pursuit of a more puritan political approach. In 1997, he gained prominence with the publication of his seminal work, "Osnovy Geopolitike" (The Foundations of Geopolitics) -- a rambling, 924-page treatise advocating the re-creation of an anti-Western Russian empire. In it, Mr. Dugin postulated that Russia and the U.S. are destined for global confrontation, and proposed a series of alliances through which Russia can achieve international dominance.
Since then, Mr. Dugin has begun putting these principles into practice. In 2000, he created "Evrazia," a socio-political movement dedicated to the revival of the art of geopolitics -- and to the idea of a "Greater Russia" stretching from the Middle East to the Pacific. Not surprisingly, the group's heady cocktail of mysticism, religious symbolism and good old-fashioned political partisanship found more than a few takers among Russians disenchanted with their country's second-rate economic and political status. (Today, according to Mr. Dugin, his movement boasts some 25,000 members in Russia and its so-called "near abroad," many of them current and former members of the Russian intelligence services and military.) Two and a half years later, Mr. Dugin's ideas were formally entrenched in Russian political discourse with the chartering of his "Eurasia Party," a political faction deeply supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy line.
Over the years, Mr. Dugin's influence has ebbed and flowed with the currents of Russian foreign policy. Before September 11th, his ideas about multipolarity and anti-Americanism were very much in vogue in the corridors of the Kremlin, with Mr. Dugin reportedly serving as an unofficial adviser to a number of important Russian defense officials and diplomats. But in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Mr. Dugin's star waned. Against the counsel of many in Moscow, President Putin rallied to the side of the United States, supporting the war on terror and the U.S. offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Gradually, however, Mr. Dugin's philosophy has resurfaced, buoyed by a wave of renewed nationalist sentiment and imperial impulses. In the aftermath of the U.S.-led campaign against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Washington's cooperation with Moscow has cooled, and the Kremlin has reverted to old habits. In the Middle East, in line with Mr. Dugin's dictums, the Russian government is stubbornly nurturing its nuclear contacts with Iran, as well as expanding arms supplies to the beleaguered regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. In Asia, Moscow is drifting closer to China in a strategic partnership that Mr. Dugin has praised as an "alliance… in the heart of Eurasia." And in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Kremlin is gravitating toward an increasingly hostile, anti-American foreign policy stance, nervous over the recent democratic transformations that have taken place in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
Mr. Dugin, for his part, is seizing the moment. The philosopher has provided much-needed intellectual cover for this summer's landmark Russian-Chinese military maneuvers, which have elicited serious worries in the West. This type of aggressive military cooperation is only natural, Mr. Dugin explains, because both countries are threatened by the recent Ukrainian, Georgian and Kyrgyz "color revolutions" -- and by the perceived "American connection" to these transformations.
Mr. Dugin has also thrown his weight behind Moscow's efforts to oust American influence from the "post-Soviet space." "A new strategic bloc is taking shape before our eyes," he recently wrote with admiration in the newspaper Vedomosti. "The Americans are firmly resolved to continue their policy in Eurasia," and "Russia's salvation" lies with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Moscow- and Beijing-led regional anti-Western alliance encompassing many of the former Soviet republics.
At home, meanwhile, Mr. Dugin is channeling his energies toward the mobilization of various nationalist forces. In recent weeks, his Eurasia movement has spearheaded the rapprochement of various ethnic and political groups in Russia and the near abroad. The goal, according to Mr. Dugin, is the creation of a sweeping "Anti-Orange" political front aimed at confronting the new, pluralistic and pro-Western governments in Ukraine and Georgia -- and of preventing similar democratic inroads in an increasingly authoritarian Russia.
As these maneuvers suggest, Mr. Dugin's vision is xenophobic, antidemocratic and deeply anti-Western. Alarmingly, it also appears to be gaining serious ground in Putin's Russia, where authoritarian drift and opposition to the U.S. are again becoming the order of the day.

Mr. Berman is vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.

The Wall Street Journal

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Russia, America and the "PEAK OIL" problem

karmen said...

Media in Russia are not being gagged. I read them every day, look TV, listen radio. There are many different opinions expressed.
So I don't see ant problems here

Anonymous said...

agree with karmen
but this site is a joke as i have lived in russia all my life and i am happy many people are happy, this site is rubbish and i only found it because i was on a russian forum and people where laughing about this site it is the most stupidist site i have ever seen. Keep up the crap work as many people in russia find this site funny.

La Russophobe said...

ANONYMOUS: The fact that Russians find one Russian woman being killed by her husband every 40 minutes to be FUNNY probably explains why their population is becoming extinct.

La Russophobe said...

WINNY: Looks like Reith is not up to your challenge. Can't say that we are supprised. ;)