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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gearing Up for the News Season

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On Thursday, which would have been the 49th birthday of slain Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, my wife and I attended a commemoration gathering for her on Pushkin Square. Of Moscow's more than 10 million residents, less than 300 came to pay their respects. Afterward, we looked for a cafe where we could sit quietly and reflect upon the event, but to no avail -- every cafe in the vicinity was packed with people apparently unaware of or indifferent to Politkovskaya's passing.

Alas, her death made less of an impression on people here than it did in the West. Few appreciated the noble mind of that heroic journalist. Most have grown too inured to the most horrible tragedies imaginable -- like the murder by terrorists of more than 300 people in Beslan, half of them schoolchildren -- to be shocked by the murder of one woman. People even viewed the recent bombing of a Moscow-St. Petersburg train as a minor incident, breathing a collective sigh of relief when August ended without the usual annual cataclysm.

Despite this sad state of affairs, there is hope in the fact that Prosecutor General Yury Chaika recently reported to President Vladimir Putin on the progress of the Politkovskaya murder investigation. This, along with state television's extensive coverage of the case, proves the authorities are not entirely indifferent to international opinion and are willing to take some steps in the right direction.

But those good intentions will, as usual, be lost in the execution. Namely, the investigation has become so fixated on implicating self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky in the murder that even journalists typically loyal to the Kremlin have been poking fun at it.

Press leaks from Putin's recent meeting with top television professionals offer further insight into his real attitude toward international opinion. On the question of the fate of Manana Aslamazian, head of the now-defunct nongovernmental organization Educated Media Foundation, Novaya Gazeta sources quoted Putin as saying she was under no threat, and that the authorities were right to have shut down the organization.

What of any value, Putin seemed to ask, could an organization funded by foreign money be able to teach our media professionals?

What indeed? It could have taught them to follow Putin's instruction that the media become financially self-supporting and transparent. During Boris Yeltsin's presidency, the media became so corrupted by the manipulations of state authorities and powerful oligarchs that it took foreign consultants to explain the proper way to sell advertising, to keep transparent accounts and to obey the law. Many media managers have benefited from the guidance provided by Educated Media. This is lost on the authorities.

Meanwhile, after a quiet summer, another salvo was fired in the British-Russian "Cold War," triggered by the exotic murder of former Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko in London. Berezovsky, who also lives in London, published an article in The Sunday Times calling for a revolution to overthrow Putin, and for Western governments to join in. A few days later in Russia, the man implicated by Scotland Yard in Litvinenko's murder, Andrei Lugovoi, derided the British justice system during an interview with British journalists on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Given that Berezovsky, a Russian, fired the first shot in this feud, you have to wonder why Britain is in such a huff. Why does Her Majesty's Government get so upset by what is essentially a typical shootout for Russia as it goes through its "primitive accumulation of capital" stage of development? After all, no native-born British citizens were harmed in the exchange. The answer is buried deep in the mysterious Anglo-Saxon-Celtic soul.

So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, welcome to the new news season!

Alexei Pankin is the editor of "Strategii i Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa," a magazine for publishing business professionals.