Dear Mr. Nossik
On March 20th, our publisher Kim Zigfeld wrote in her Russian politics column on the Pajamas Media blog that a blogger named Savva Terentyev was under attack by the Kremlin for daring to post critical comments about the Russian police on a Live Journal blog operated by a Russian reporter. Here's part of her column:
Anton Nosik, the most powerful figure in Russia’s blogosphere and director of livejournal.com’s chief administrator in Russia, was reported to have told the Russian newspaper Kommersant (”the Merchant”) that the [Terentyev] case was “absurd.” Nosik stated: “The ignorance of local judges often plays a role in the outcome of cases connected to the internet. I hope that with many journalists present, the judge will look at the essence of the case and not simply hand down a guilty verdict.” Nosik later said: “The people who launched the criminal case are trying in this way to portray police-turned-crooks as a social group that enjoys protection from Russian legislation. It seems to me that it ought be us who are protected by the law, not crooks.” Within a few months, it was being reported that the Live Journal hosting service itself was under attack in a hostile takeover by Kremlin-friendly businessmen, similar what had already been seen at Russia’s major television stations and newspapers.Seeing how, as Kim wrote in the column, the charges Terentyev faces "could result in a $12,000 fine being levied against the blogger" and since "in a country where the average wage is $4 per hour, that amounts to a penalty of 18 months’ wages," and since "if Terentyev is unable to pay the fine, he’ll be sentenced to labor" and since "on top of that, he could get up to two years in prison," if we were speaking to the Russian press, we might have chosen a different word than "absurd" to describe the situation. We doubt that if you were facing two years in a Russian prison, you'd find it merely "absurd."
We're also quite disappointed to see you lay so much stress on the role of "local" authorities in this matter. Even if you don't believe that the Kremlin directly ordered this attack, surely you must admit that if the Kremlin ordered it to stop, it would do so instantly. Yet, you didn't find even a few words to condemn the Kremlin. Of course, that might be because you're afraid for your own skin if you did, which is a reasonable consideration -- though somewhat disappointing in a leading media figure such as your estimable self.
In a comment on Kim's post, you apparently (if this was an impersonation, we apologize) took exception to the last sentence in the paragraph quoted above. You wrote:
I am the Anton Nossik, quoted above from Kommersant daily, and I happen to work for the Moscow-based Sup company that owns LiveJournal Inc. since December 3rd, 2007. There had been no attack whatsoever, and no hostile takeover. Here’s what actually happened.Your link led to a blog post published by Live Journal administrators themselves about the takeover. As Kim noted in her response to you, it's somewhat disappointing that you would rely on the Live Journal's administrators themselves for the "true" facts about the takeover. Surely you don't mean to suggest that if the administrators were Kremlin collaborators, they'd freely admit it, do you? Personally, we'd find a suggestion like that pretty insulting to our intelligence. Kim pointed out that many third-party sources have condemned the takeover, sources such as Russian analyst Yevgeny Morozov, writing in the International Herald Tribune and the Other Russia opposition political coalition.
And then, as we report today, there are the Live Journal bloggers themselves, who recently staged a content strike to protest the increasingly oppressive conditions they are forced to confront under the new system. Other Russia reports that yet another ZheZhe blogger is now facing investigation and possible prosecution just like Terentyev.
You didn't respond to Kim's reply on the Pajamas blog, so we'd like to offer you some further provocation to do so. Frankly, as things stand now, we find ourselves disgusted by your wishy-washy bromide regarding Mr. Terentyev and his plight. We don't see much in the Global Voices post about the content strike to indicate that you are right there with them on the front lines, which almost makes us think you might be helping to sweep the whole issue under the carpet. And when we review your blog, we really don't see too many indications of tough-minded criticism of the Kremlin's well-documented crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia, certainly not what we'd expect from someone in your lofty position in the national media. Seems like an awful lot of fluff and, in fact, sometimes we kind of almost think you sound like a Kremlin shill.
So, like, what's the deal here Anton? Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem? Are you really telling us that the change in ownership at ZheZhe, and all these recent developments, are absolutely benign as far as both the Live Journal and the Kremlin are concerned, and only the fault of a few misguided local officials?
We'd like to know.