Russia -- Land of the Slaves and Home of the Craven
Freedom House has released its 2008 report on worldwide press freedom. The United States ranks #21 on the list (classified as "free") , while Russia ranks an appalling #170, tied with Kazakhstan, Sudan and Yemen and more repressive than Venezuela and Afghanistan. Russia is classified as "not free." Only 22 nations on the entire planet, out of 195 under review, have less press freedom than Vladimir Putin's Russia. Only 33% of the reviewed nations are classified as "not free," and Russia is among them. Only three nations out of 33 in Eastern Europe have lower scores for press freedom than Russia (Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Ukraine and Georgia are both much higher-rated, and Russia's arch nemesis Estonia is #1 at the top of the group. Russia is in the bottom 10% of its own region, not even a leader there much less in the world.
Russia can be credited with one truly amazing achievement in press freedom in 2007. It got even worse than in the prior year, when it was already one of the worst in the world. With so little room for decline, truly Herculean effort was undoubtedly required by Mr. Putin to find those last remaining vestigial remnants of freedom and exterminate them. In 2007, Russia ranked #164, so it's position has fallen precipitously in just one year, down 6 places when there was virtually no room left to drop. In 2006, Russia's ranking was #158 and in 2005 it was #145, virtually unchanged from 2004, when it was #147. So, in just the period covering Putin's second term in office, Russia has lost 25 positions on the world press freedom index, dropping a whopping 17% during that time. And Russia was already classified as "not free" when it started out that period.
There are no words which can express the ghastly spectacle of Russia's dictator claiming to be outraged that the Western World views his nation as "a little bit savage" and expecting to be seated at such tribunals as the G-7 while maintaining a barbaric record on repression of journalism such as Freedom House has documented. One expects to hear such lunatic ravings from the "mind" of someone like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, but one doesn't. Only from Russia does this kind of jaw-dropping hypocrisy emanate -- and as a result we have seen Russia's system of government totally collapse not once but twice in the past century (three times if you count the transfer of power by Boris Yeltsin to the KGB in 1999).
The Russia report (see page 175 of the PDF document explaining the findings) states: "Media freedom continued to decline in Russia as the Kremlin further restricted independent news reporting and public dissent while preparing for a stage-managed parliamentary election. Vladimir Putin's authoritarian, corrupt and lawless style of rule appeared set to continue at the end of his second term. Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, Kremlin has used the country's corrupt and politicized criminal justice system to harass and prosecute independent journalists. Throughout 2007, journalists faced dozens of criminal cases" for publishing stories the Kremlin did not care for."
"Authoritarian, corrupt and lawless." Ouch.
Even though Russians purport crave international recognition and respect, their every action betrays exactly the opposite desire -- to become an object of scorn and ridicule in the civilized world. The report refers to Russia as "one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media" and neither Russia's government nor its people did or demanded anything to make it safer next year.
Russians expect to be treated with due respect as equals by the United States, despite America's vastly greater economic and military attainment, yet Russians refuse to treat such nations as Georgia and Ukraine as anything other than servile colonies expected to do Russia's bidding. Russia expresses outrage at the "Russophobic bias" shown by independent organizations like Freedom House when they routinely condemn Russian barbarity, yet Russia's response is never to make clear efforts to improve the rating. Instead, Russia chooses to adopt the Soviet-era practice of trying to point out weaknesses in other countries, as if that might excuse Russia's self-destruction. That practice led the unreformed USSR to implode less than 100 years after it was created; if Russia follows the same practice, it should expect the same fate.