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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Problems Lie With Putin, Not Media




"The economic inefficiency of a large proportion of mass media outlets makes them dependent on the commercial and political interests of the bosses and sponsors of these media outlets. This makes it possible to use the mass media for settling accounts with competitors and, sometimes, even to turn them into mass misinformation outlets and into a means of struggle against the state." f


President Vladimir Putin in his Saturday state-of-the-nation address


President Putin spoke many fine words this weekend about his respect for speech and media freedoms and civil liberties. His critique of the media as hobbled by hostile oligarch takeovers was also correct (and ironic f if not for the help of oligarchs willing to turn ORT and other media into "mass misinformation outlets," Putin would probably never have been elected).


But one has the sense that all of his praise for the craft and institutions of journalism was the sugar coating the pill f the pill being this dour complaint about media who "struggle against the state."


This is far from the first time Putin has complained of media who oppose "the state." But we still aren't quite sure what he means.


We would think a media outlet truly guilty of opposing the state would have to have advocated a violent uprising or some other form of treason or anarchic public disorder.


Yet judging from Putin's complaints about NTV and Radio Liberty, to take two examples, media are actually challenging the state whenever they dare to challenge politician Putin. As it was in the days of Boris Yeltsin, l'etat, c'est moi.


Do media who question the war in Chechnya qualify as having engaged in a "struggle against the state"? We have articles in our paper today chronicling horrific abuses of power by men in uniform. These events happened; they are being discussed all over the world; the Russian army and authorities are getting a reputation as fascist ghouls; and our readers, and indeed all Russians, need to know this.


We would argue that those struggling against the state are actually Putin and his men, whenever they have suppressed such vital information f as the government has done, with Putin's approval, by persecuting Radio Liberty's Andrei Babitsky, environmental journalist Alexander Nikitin, muckraker Alexander Khinshtein and others.


Putin's men did not target such journalists for abuse in order to protect "the state." At best, they did so to protect their own narrow vision of the state; at worst, to protect their own skins and further their own careers. Either way, it is Putin, and not the media, who has the problem.