In the days and months following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian journalists became known for their hard-hitting investigative reporting. NTV television was a leader in exposing corruption in the Russian government. Today, the channel’s prime time “Profession Reporter” discusses dolls and their impact on children. Igor Ykovenko, general secretry of the Russian Union of Journalists, notes reporters “understand perfectly well what they need to do”– tow the party line or tow your body to another occupation. The Putin government has relentlessly cracked down on any television station which endeavors to be objective in its coverage of political issues. Oleg Panifiov, a top freedom activist, asks: “have you ever seen anyon offering a view that differed from the official position over Kosovo?”
Naturally, President Putin insists he believes in freedom of the press even though his actions in gaining control over all major TV and radio outlets ensures government direction for what is being told the people of Russia. Most national newspapers belong to businessmen who understand controversy will not be good for their relations with the Kremlin. For example, the liberal weekly, Obshcheya Gazeta, was sold to a businessman who once in possession, closed it down. Only three national newspapers are regarded as independent and all are connected to the Moscow Times.
There is now a new president in Russia, Dimitry Medvedev. At first glance, he is a Putin clone, but one can only wonder if there is a spark of belief in freedom to this man who spent his life as a lawyer.