| Russia's state-run TV stations have received a style list
prescribing the terminology to be used in reports on sensitive subjects
such as Chechnya and the benefits bill. From now on Channel One and Russia
TV are on a "slippery slope" towards a ban on reporting some
subjects at all. According to the NG correspondent, there is a list of
terms which should be a used in a strictly prescribed manner. It is prohibited
to pronounce during broadcasting “Chechnya” (only “the
Chechen republic”) and “Kadyrov” (should be pronounced
only “Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov”) and not “replacement of
benefits by money” but “monetised benefits”, and not
“shahid” but a “shahid belt”. The very mention
of the term "killer”, not to mention "banking crisis",
will be prohibited. In response to Nezavisimaya Gazeta's queries, spokesmen
for the TV channel confirmed that these instructions actually do exist.
The head of "Vesti " Andrei Bystritsky declined to comment.
Viktoriya Arutyunova, Adviser to the Chairman of VGTRK [All-Russia State
Television and Radio Broadcasting Company], commented on the situation
for Nezavisimaya Gazeta instead. She said "the official name of the
Chechen Republic is the Chechen Republic. Chechnya is the vernacular name,
which you and I use in telephone conversations and in discussions at the
kitchen table. Television, however, is a public medium." As for the
prohibition of the term "replacement of benefits with money",
Viktoriya Arutyunova feels that "this also cannot be said on television".
She feels that TV reports should apply the official language used in the
The ominous document actually says: "On the amendment of RF legislative
instruments pursuant to the passage of the federal laws 'On amendments
and additions to the federal law "On the common organisational principles
of legislative (representative) and executive governing bodies of components
of the Russian Federation" and 'On the common organisational principles
of local self-government in the Russian Federation'". On the second
channel, however, they stubbornly use vernacular terms to identify it:
the law "on monetized benefits", the "basic benefit package"
and so forth.
Similar terminological instructions have been issued at the other state
channel. According to a manager at Channel One, this is being done "so
that people do not get confused". "For them, this is already
such a complex system. We do this simply so they know what we are talking
about and will not think this is something different, something new they
will have to figure out," he said.
Only NTV is still taking the liberty of calling Chechnya "Chechnya"
and referring to social reform as the "replacement of benefits with
Furthermore, some of the topics discussed on the fourth channel are
already banned on the first two. In contrast to NTV, Channel One and the
Russia TV channels never mention the peculiar film clip of a man resembling
Basayev at the weapons depot in Nazran, never comment on the election
of Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff Igor Sechin to the board of directors
of Rosneft, the country's biggest oil company, and never discuss the demonstration
by young YABLOKO members who poured paint on the plaque commemorating
Yuriy Andropov at the wall of the Federal Security Service. The news clips
on the state channels are completely different: Vladimir Putin makes a
historic trip to Ukraine to meet his colleague [Leonid] Kuchma; Chairman
Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov of the Chechen Electoral Commission proudly tells
state journalists about the declaration of campaign rules signed by candidates
to ensure a "good election campaign"; and the government's preparations
for the payment of money to citizens instead of benefits that were promised
but never delivered.
According to Director Aleksey Samokhvalov of the National TV and Radio
Research Centre, the use of the new official terms on Russian TV is quite
similar to the situation in Ukraine: "The presidential administration
there sends out so-called 'topic guides [temniki] - i.e., recommendations
to the media on appropriate coverage of various topics. In comparison
with them, we are just starting out, as they have already reached the
point of 'topic guides' in Ukraine, while we are still only “mopping”
up our terminology."
Evidently, such terms as "protest demonstration", "miners'
hunger strike", "freedom of speech" and all other words
that are pointless in the context of state TV policy, will also recede
forever into the information past soon. They will be categorized as vernacular
terms, appropriate only in telephone conversations and in the kitchen. This is a slippery slope.
of Speech and Media Law in Russia