A reader points out the following story from Radio Free Europe in which the duplicity of Kremlin-controlled Russian media outlets is exposed:
Russia: Misprint Or Provocation?
By Victor Yasmann
The report, which ranks countries around the world according to their protection of political and civil liberties, this year marked no change in 's score.
Freedom House researchers did note a further deterioration of human and civil rights in the country in 2006, citing mounting state control of the economy and the intensified crackdown on nongovernmental organizations. But the downturn was not enough to alter 's ranking.
Bad, But Not The Worst
On a scale of 1 to 7 -- 7 being the lowest -- received a 5 for civil liberties and a 6 for political rights. It also retained the general "not free" rating it has had since 2004.
On February 1, however, the state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported -- either intentionally or unwittingly -- that Freedom House had given Russian the lowest grades in both numerical categories, ranking it alongside countries like , , and .
The Freedom House report is readily available on the Internet. But that wasn't enough to keep the semi-official "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and "Kommersant" newspapers from quickly running with the RIA Novosti report. Even the liberal Ekho Moskvy radio station repeated the figures.
Angry reactions from Russian officialdom followed shortly. "The absurdity of such an evaluation leaves no room for comment," huffed a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential council on civil-society institutions and human rights, said has no need for "incompetent preaching" and accused Freedom House of maintaining "links with the CIA." Mikhail Margelov, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, announced would ignore the report.
The reports stumped even veteran rights activists like Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the founder and chairwoman of the Helsinki Group, who told journalists that although Freedom House was correct in noting the overall deterioration in liberties, equating with was an exaggeration.
Getting It Right
Remarkably, even as the falsified figures were spreading throughout 's mainstream media, a number of publications tied to the secret-service community -- including the St. Petersburg-based RosBalt news agency and the "Trud" daily -- printed the correct ratings.
The situation leaves watchers with a question: Were the wrong figures published by RIA Novosti and "Rossiiskaya gazeta" a mistake -- or an effort to discredit Freedom House?