A Russian radio station, Echo Moskvy, serves as a rare independent voice in Russian journalism – for as long as the Kremlin permits it.
A September 22nd issue of The New Yorker magazine quotes Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saying, “We have never had freedom of speech in Russia, so I don’t really understand what could be stifled. It seems to me that freedom is the ability to express one’s opinion, but there must exist certain boundaries as laid out by law.”
As The New Yorker rightly points out, Russian law guarantees freedom of speech without dictating such boundaries. Instead, limitations are placed on media, not according to law, but as Putin’s ruling party sees fit.
However, not all Russian media outlets are censored equally. This New Yorker article profiles Echo Moskvy, a radio station that remains independent of state control. The radio station’s editor-in chief, Alexi Venediktov, acknowledges the tenuous balance that allows it to remain in existence despite its oppositional views. The station’s existence is based on the government’s discount of its influence and the government’s need to display Echo Moskvy as an example of Russian independent media.
Meanwhile, other Russian media outlets have not navigated the intense government pressure as successfully as Echo Moskvy.
Global Integrity Report: Russia
Very strict censorship has been introduced in one of the biggest news resources on the Russian radio airwaves. All reporters from Russian News Service have left the company to protest editorial policies which they describe as “censorship”. Russian News Service, a subsidiary of the Russian Media Group holding, makes news for three major radio stations with total audience of about 8 million people. Artem Khan, a correspondent from Russian News Service, said on May 17, 2007 he and all his colleagues have walked out because of “censorship” and “pressure” from the company’s new executives who took office in April.
Censorship isn’t the worst of it. According to the Committee to Project Journalists, Russia falls behind only Iraq and Algeria in the number of journalists murdered from 1991 to 2006.
And even the token independents at Echo Moskvy have had attacks on their websites.
In our analysis of governance and anti-corruption in Russia, we found the gap between governance as written and the actual implementation to be “very large,” a pattern Global Integrity has seen in many post-Soviet states. This includes the discrepancies, all too common, between legal freedoms of speech and the realities of media production.
— Norah Mallaney