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MosNews.com, April 29, 2004

Russian Journalists: "Inner Slave" Restricting Press Freedom

The U.S.-based human rights organization Freedom Watch released a study document on the decline in press freedom in many countries including Russia in 2003.

According to the study, after being downgraded from Partly Free to Not be Free in 2002, Russia continued on its course of restricting press freedoms. In 2003, the Kremlin consolidated its near total control over the broadcast media, Freedom House said. Authorities also used legislation and financial pressure to further restrict critical coverage, particularly on sensitive topics such as the war in Chechnya.

"Economic pressures can lead to an increase in self-censorship among journalists," Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor has said in a press release. "Unfortunately these factors are often overlooked when examining levels of press freedom."

Russian media experts, meanwhile, have a different take on why the media is subservient. Pavel Gutiontov, the secretary of Russia's Journalist Union, told MosNews that there's not so much pressure from the top as there is a desire of the media to please the authorities.

"The authorities are not enforcing total control," he told MosNews in an interview. "The sad thing is that the press is readily secondguessing what the authorities would want it to print." Adding that he couldn't name many outright repressions by the government last year, Gutiontov said that "the inner censor is once again becoming the main censor (Ed. the chilling effect is meant here). The press is tame, just as it was up until 1985-86," when perestroika began.

For Gutiontov, new laws and liberal reforms will not resolve the problem. "We have to do a lot of work to eradicate our inner slave - from ourselves, from our editing rooms, from television," he told MosNews.

In the meantime, Gutiontov remains pessimistic, saying that he doubts that Russia will see a revival any time soon of the media exuberance that the nation witnessed ten years ago. "First of all, society needs to change."


See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

MosNews.com, April 29, 2004

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