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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Three Ways to Fight Off a Free Press




"I already told him that lying will not do and that everything has to be done properly. But now there are corpses here, corpses there. This is wrong." -- President Boris Yeltsin in February 1994, explaining his decision to sack the head of RTR television over the station's coverage of the war in Chechnya.


Thank goodness for Mikhail Lesin, the nation's new press minister. Lesin sees his job as protecting the Russian state from the free press. Perhaps if Lesin had been in the Cabinet during the war in Chechnya, the poor state could have done an even better job defending itself from the free press. Who knows, if Agitprop Minister Lesin had been on the job, perhaps that heroic war could have lasted just a bit longer?


"There is no doubt that mass media today have a lot more ways to influence the state than the other way around," Lesin warns us.


As supposedly dire warnings go, this inanity calls to mind U.S. President Ronald Reagan's concern that Nicaragua is closer to Texas than Texas is to Washington. To the barricades!


For its sure chutzpah, it even rivals Boris Berezovsky's recent warning that Vladimir Gusinsky, founder of NTV television, is a "dangerous" man because he has too much media concentrated in his hands. This from Berezovsky, the man who rules the roost from Kommersant to ORT to Nezavisimaya Gazeta to TV 6.


In any case, Lesin has a job to do, and we'd like to help. How can the agitprop minister defend the poor state from the media wolves? Three humble suggestions:


? Make sure Yeltsin steps down. If he doesn't, or if he flirts with some sort of Pinochet-Deng Xiaoping, supreme-father-of-the-country role, then the vicious media will never drop it.


? Push any money-laundering operations out of the Kremlin. Not that they necessarily exist, of course. But the Swiss seem to think they do, and it's certain to become a public relations headache. When you're the new Russian government happy-spin minister and you've got "Kremlin" and "money-laundering" in the same headline, you've probably screwed up.


? Don't steal all of the oil companies this time. Another round of freebie oil privatizations like Yeltsin oversaw in 1995 would be a real PR puzzler. If that happens again, we all know the media will pummel and pummel the poor hapless state, until the state cries "uncle!"


Minister Lesin, if you can achieve even two of these three tasks, you will have done the state a great service in its battle against a mighty and merciless free press. Best of luck to you in this important work.