Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Media in Russia today

At RFE/RL, an interview with Russian Journalists’ Union head Igor Yakovenko on censorship, blacklists and the current state of Russian media. Excerpt:
RFE/RL: Finally, some people here and in the West point to the example of the Ekho Moskvy radio station — how can there be no media freedom in Russia if a radio station like this exists that can be rather critical of the government?

Yakovenko: Even in the most stagnant days of the Soviet Union, in the 1970s, there were so-called “air vents,” which allowed some freedom of speech. They were like pipes that allowed the steam of disgruntlement and criticism to escape, little islands for lovers of freedom and pluralism. And in the Soviet Union, this “little island” was “Literaturnaya Gazeta,” which was granted permission, from on high, to print the sorts of things that were forbidden to everyone else. This newspaper was able to carry out investigative journalism. They even made comments on the mafias that existed at the time in the Soviet Union. And so these air vents, these oases in the middle of a desert of censorship, are now in the hands of Ekho Moskvy radio and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. And they really do enjoy relative freedom. One can say that Ekho Moskvy undertakes about 90 percent of the journalism in this country, because it has employed all the people who were sacked from state television channels, who have now become presenters. Journalists of all inclinations have flocked there. It really is the only free, pluralist radio station in Russia, you could say a quasi-social channel, I mean in terms of content.
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