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Thread: Putin Opponents Are Made to Vanish From TV

  1. #1

    Default Putin Opponents Are Made to Vanish From TV

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/wo...gewanted=print


    June 3, 2008
    KREMLIN RULES
    It Isn’t Magic: Putin Opponents Are Made to Vanish From TV

    By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
    MOSCOW — On a talk show last fall, a prominent political analyst named Mikhail G. Delyagin had some tart words about Vladimir V. Putin. When the program was later televised, Mr. Delyagin was not.

    Not only were his remarks cut — he was also digitally erased from the show, like a disgraced comrade airbrushed from an old Soviet photo. (The technicians may have worked a bit hastily, leaving his disembodied legs in one shot.)

    Mr. Delyagin, it turned out, has for some time resided on the so-called stop list, a roster of political opponents and other critics of the government who have been barred from TV news and political talk shows by the Kremlin.

    The stop list is, as Mr. Delyagin put it, “an excellent way to stifle dissent.”

    It is also a striking indication of how Mr. Putin has increasingly relied on the Kremlin-controlled TV networks to consolidate power, especially in recent elections.

    Opponents who were on TV a year or two ago all but vanished during the campaigns, as Mr. Putin won a parliamentary landslide for his party and then installed his protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor. Mr. Putin is now prime minister, but is still widely considered Russia’s leader.

    Onetime Putin allies like Mikhail M. Kasyanov, his former prime minister, and Andrei N. Illarionov, his former chief economic adviser, disappeared from view. Garry K. Kasparov, the former chess champion and leader of the Other Russia opposition coalition, was banned, as were members of liberal parties.

    Even the Communist Party, the only remaining opposition party in Parliament, has said that its leaders are kept off TV.

    And it is not just politicians. Televizor, a rock group whose name means TV set, had its booking on a St. Petersburg station canceled in April, after its members took part in an Other Russia demonstration.

    When some actors cracked a few mild jokes about Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev at Russia’s equivalent of the Academy Awards in March, they were expunged from the telecast.

    Indeed, political humor in general has been exiled from TV. One of the nation’s most popular satirists, Viktor A. Shenderovich, once had a show that featured puppet caricatures of Russian leaders, including Mr. Putin. It was canceled in Mr. Putin’s first term, and Mr. Shenderovich has been all but barred from TV.

    Senior government officials deny the existence of a stop list, saying that people hostile to the Kremlin do not appear on TV simply because their views are not newsworthy.

    In interviews, journalists said that they did not believe the Kremlin kept an official master stop list, but that the networks kept their own, and that they all operated under an informal stop list — an understanding of the Kremlin’s likes and dislikes.

    Vladimir V. Pozner, host of “Times,” a political talk show on the top national network, Channel One, said the pressure to conform to Kremlin dictates had intensified over the last year, and had not eased even after the campaign.

    “The elections have led to almost a paranoia on the part of the Kremlin administration about who is on television,” said Mr. Pozner, who is president of the Russian Academy of Television.

    In practice, Mr. Pozner said, he tells Channel One executives whom he wants to invite on the show, and they weed out anyone they think is persona non grata.

    “They will say, ‘Well, you know we can’t do that, it’s not possible, please, don’t put us in this situation. You can’t invite so and so’ — whether it be Kasparov or Kasyanov or someone else,” Mr. Pozner said.

    He added: “The thing that nobody wants to talk about is that we do not have freedom of the press when it comes to the television networks.”

    Vladimir R. Solovyov, another political talk show host, said Mr. Pozner was complaining only because his ratings were down and he was looking for someone to blame if his program was canceled. Mr. Solovyov, a vocal supporter of Mr. Putin, said he had never been bullied by the Kremlin.

    Yet last year, his show, “Throw Down the Gauntlet,” regularly featured members of opposition parties. This year, the only politicians to appear have been leaders of Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, and an allied party.

    Asked why he had not invited opposition leaders lately, Mr. Solovyov said: “No one supports them. They have nothing to say.”

    Vladimir A. Ryzhkov, a liberal and former member of Parliament who used to appear on the show, said Mr. Solovyov was covering up for the Kremlin.

    “He lies, of course,” Mr. Ryzhkov said. “My programs with him were among the highest rated programs of any in the history of his show.”

    Mr. Ryzhkov said he was usually allowed to appear in lengthy segments on only one major channel: Russia Today, the English-language news station, which the Kremlin established to spread its viewpoint globally.

    “I can go on Russia Today only because they want to make it seem that in Russia, there is freedom of the press,” he said.

    After the Soviet Union’s fall, several national and regional networks arose that were owned by oligarchs. Though they operated with relatively few restrictions, their owners often used them to settle personal and business scores. One network, NTV, garnered attention for its investigative reporting and war dispatches from Chechnya.

    Mr. Putin chafed at negative coverage of the government, and the Kremlin effectively took over the major national networks in his first term, including NTV. Vladimir Gusinsky, NTV’s owner, was briefly arrested and then fled the country after giving up the network. From that point on, executives and journalists at Russian networks clearly understood that they would be punished for resisting the Kremlin.

    All the major national and regional networks are now owned by the government or its allies. And since the presidential election in March, neither Mr. Putin nor Mr. Medvedev has indicated any interest in loosening the reins.

    “Our television is very often criticized,” Mr. Medvedev said in April. “They say it is boring, it is pro-government, it is too oriented towards the positions of state agencies, of those in power. You know, I can say that our television — in terms of quality, in terms of the technology used — is, I believe, one of the best in the world.”

    Valery Y. Komissarov, a former host on a state channel who is now a governing party leader in Parliament, said television coverage was a convenient scapegoat for opposition politicians and antagonistic commentators.

    “These are people who are not interesting for society, who are not interesting for journalists,” Mr. Komissarov said. “But they want publicity and perhaps they want to explain away their lack of creative and political success by the fact that they are persecuted, that they are included on the so-called stop list.”

    While the Kremlin has focused on TV because it has by far the largest audience, many radio stations and newspapers also abide by the stop list, either ignoring or belittling the opposition.

    There are exceptions: a few national and regional newspapers regularly publish critical news and commentary about Mr. Putin and comments from those on the stop list. In addition, the Internet is not censored, and contains plenty of criticism of the government.

    A small national network, Ren TV, pushes the boundaries, as does a national radio station, the Echo of Moscow, which has become the voice of the opposition even though Gazprom, the government gas monopoly, owns a majority stake in it.

    The Kremlin seems to tolerate criticism in such outlets because they have a limited reach compared with the major television networks. The nightly news on Channel One, for example, is far more popular than any of its counterparts in the United States. It regularly is one of top 10 most-watched programs in Russia.

    Mr. Delyagin, the political analyst edited out of the talk show last fall, said he was surprised to have been invited in the first place. He said he last appeared on a major network several years ago, before he began attacking the Kremlin and supporting the opposition.

    “I thought that maybe she forgot to look at the stop list,” he said, referring to the program’s host, Kira A. Proshutinskaya.

    (Last week, after a Russian-language version of this article was posted on a blog run by the Moscow bureau of The New York Times, Mr. Delyagin was invited to appear on a show on NTV.)

    Ms. Proshutinskaya’s program, “The People Want to Know,” had been censored before.

    Mr. Ryzhkov, the liberal former member of Parliament, went on the show last year, but its network, TV Center, refused to broadcast it.

    In an interview, Ms. Proshutinskaya conceded that Mr. Delyagin had been digitally erased from the program. She said she had been embarrassed by the incident, as well as the one with Mr. Ryzhkov, explaining that the network was responsible. The Kremlin had so intimidated the networks, she said, that self-censorship was rampant.

    “I would be lying if I said that it is easy to work these days,” she said. “The leadership of the channels, because of their great fear of losing their jobs — they are very lucrative positions — they overdo everything.”

    The management of her network would not comment. But the network’s news director, Mikhail A. Ponomaryov, said journalists and hosts of talk shows had no choice but to comply with the rules.

    “It would be stupid to say that we can do whatever we want,” he said. “If the owner of the company thinks that we should not show a person, as much as I want to, I cannot do it.”


    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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  2. #2

    Exclamation Stop List

    Good article, best line: "Senior government officials deny the existence of a stop list, saying that people hostile to the Kremlin do not appear on TV simply because their views are not newsworthy."

  3. #3

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    Yeah that was a good one. here is another:

    Not only were his remarks cut — he was also digitally erased from the show, like a disgraced comrade airbrushed from an old Soviet photo. (The technicians may have worked a bit hastily, leaving his disembodied legs in one shot.)


    Must have been like a Monty Python skit... but it was real. Can you imagine??

  4. #4

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    Like old times again.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    Like old times again.
    For some reason, this popped into my head:


  6. #6
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    Of course I can't defend this, nor would I want to. But I do want to point out two things:

    1) NY Times publishes articles like the above periodically, and they're always accompanied by comments from Russian citizens. My general impression has been that the majority of Russian citizens don't find a problem with Putin's policies towards the media. In many cases, they seem to embrace it.

    2) I've also read some articles/essays on the Russian economy post-1990, and the predominant theory is that Putin's style of rule is much more conducive to modernizing, and generally improving, Russia's economy. Back in Yeltsin's rule, there seemed to be very little rule of law. Black markets thrived, and the economy was sort of in a free for all - hence the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of Russia's nouveau riche.

    If you read any political development theory, there is one very important constant that holds in democratic societies. And that is: before you can embrace the political freedoms that make a democracy transparent, egalitarian, and successful, there needs to be a period during which rule of law is the major goal. Democracies can't function without efficient legal codes and systems, nor without widespread respect for law. Russia's not a democracy, and I don't know if it's headed there anytime soon. But my hope is that, once things settle down, they'll get back on the right track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686 View Post
    Of course I can't defend this, nor would I want to. But I do want to point out two things:

    1) NY Times publishes articles like the above periodically, and they're always accompanied by comments from Russian citizens. My general impression has been that the majority of Russian citizens don't find a problem with Putin's policies towards the media. In many cases, they seem to embrace it.
    In many cases, they are not aware of it.

    How can you complain about something you have no knowledge of?

    2) I've also read some articles/essays on the Russian economy post-1990, and the predominant theory is that Putin's style of rule is much more conducive to modernizing, and generally improving, Russia's economy. Back in Yeltsin's rule, there seemed to be very little rule of law. Black markets thrived, and the economy was sort of in a free for all - hence the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of Russia's nouveau riche.
    The two can be handled independently. He has helped things, but kicking a baby to get it to stop crying is not always the best plan.

    If you read any political development theory, there is one very important constant that holds in democratic societies. And that is: before you can embrace the political freedoms that make a democracy transparent, egalitarian, and successful, there needs to be a period during which rule of law is the major goal. Democracies can't function without efficient legal codes and systems, nor without widespread respect for law. Russia's not a democracy, and I don't know if it's headed there anytime soon. But my hope is that, once things settle down, they'll get back on the right track.

    Hard to say. This does not look like Putin is just trying to get things to settle down, the longer he is there, the more he seems to be tightening the noose.

    This is just the forced closing o fthe eyes of the people he is tightening it around.

  8. #8
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    From the comments I've read on NYTimes, it seems the Russian people are very well aware, and don't seem to mind it. I can only assume that the comments are authentic.

  9. #9

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    I think that both of you are ignoring an important component in explaining what seems to be acceptance by many Russians of Putin's policies.

    Geopolitics.

    From Khrushchev through Gorbachev, the Russians stood toe-to-toe with Americans. Especially in an era following a devastating war, that had to be a source of pride to Soviet society.

    They mattered on the world stage. That photo I posted was taken in 1973, when Leonid Brezhnev visited the US. It was a hugely important event, and combined with Nixon's visit to Moscow the year before, lead to the SALT I agreement, where the USSR achieved nuclear parity with the US.

    After the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR collapsed, although Russia remained a military superpower, America turned its attention elsewhere. Boris Yeltsin's first visit to the US was notable for remarks in the press that he'd been drinking heavily.

    **The woman in the photo is Jill St John.

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    So you're suggesting this is a matter of renewed nationalist sentiment?

    I think that might be a factor, but it can't be a major one, in my opinion. Importance on the world stage is no longer dictated by military might, but instead by economic might. Imagine the national embarrassment felt after the default of Russian debt in 1998. Now the government is awash in more money than it knows what to do with.

    Maybe you're referring to something more akin to the leverage associated with Russia's natural gas monopoly and the implications on its relationship with Europe. That's geopolitics, alright, but it's got $$$ written all over it. No one's going to start a war over it.

    On the whole, I think Russians are simply hopeful - for the first time in a long time - that the country is back on track to achieving "developed" status.

  11. #11

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    ^
    Don't discount nationalism and military participation on the world stage as less a motivator than economics, especially for countries with a history of it.

    If our own national election was about economics, would McCain stand a chance?

    No matter how they frame it as national security or a fight against terrorism, the visceral response to Iraq is losing the war.

  12. #12
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    Point taken, but the difference with the U.S. is, we already have a strong economy. People get all worked up when the unemployment rate goes from 5% to 5.5%, while most countries would love their unemployment to hover in that range.

    Examples of how the Russian economy has improved since the late 1990s:

    2007 was the ninth straight year of economic growth, averaging 7% per year (8.1% in 2007).
    By early 2008, average monthly salary was $640, up from $80 in 2000.
    14% of Russians lived below the poverty line in 2007, down from 40% in 1998.
    Unemployment at around 6%, down from 12.4% in 1999.

    These are substantial gains, and all of them have come under Putin's rule. So while he's eroded the rights of the press and other liberties, the economic realities of average Russians have improved, and I suspect that's why they don't mind.

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    And, surprise, Putin's protege is now preaching economics to world leaders, and offering Russian assistance. Who could have imagined this 10 years ago?

    June 8, 2008

    Russia Takes Critical Tone on Economy

    By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — In his first major economic speech since becoming president, Dmitri A. Medvedev said Saturday that the world might be in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and that a newly revived Russia could offer solutions to a systemic crisis that underscored the United States’ economic shortcomings.

    He opened with an indirect dig.

    “Today, the center of our attention will be global changes in the financial systems, on commodities and food markets,” he said in an address in which he focused on the recent unnerving jump in international food and energy prices. “And, likewise, economic relations between various countries, including relations between the former leaders of international development, which are showing losses, and new players that are ensuring growing rates of economic growth.”

    Mr. Medvedev, who was inaugurated on May 7, spoke at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual event since the 1990s that was thrust into the spotlight last year as Russia’s answer to rival forums held in Europe.

    It was also a showcase for the former imperial capital of St. Petersburg, hometown of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin and Mr. Medvedev. The forum opened on Friday evening with a free concert for city residents on Palace Square, in front of the Winter Palace. Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, performed “Dark Side of the Moon.”

    This year’s forum, held at Lenexpo, near the Gulf of Finland, has attracted Russian oligarchs and international business leaders, including Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian metals and mining magnate, and Anthony B. Hayward, the chief executive of BP. Their joint venture, TNK-BP, one of Russia’s largest oil producers, has been embroiled in controversy over reports that Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled natural gas giant, is stepping up pressure to buy a major stake in the company.

    In a carefully written keynote address that underscored his knowledge of corporate terminology, Mr. Medvedev spoke of “economic egoism” and “economic nationalism,” and he made specific reference to the United States overreaching its economic capabilities.

    “It turned out to be an illusion that one country, even the most powerful, could take upon itself the role of global government,” he said. “Moreover, namely, the dissonance between the formal role of the United States of America in the world economy and its actual capabilities was one of the central causes of the current crisis. However big the American market, and however reliable the American financial system, it’s not capable of replacing global goods and financial markets.”

    A panel of officials, experts and entrepreneurs responded to Mr. Medvedev’s words in a session that immediately followed his speech.

    The American commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, who addressed the gathering as part of the panel, said that the “idea that growth means taking away from others” reminds him of his birthplace, Cuba, a remark that would resonate with a Russian audience.

    But comments from Aleksei L. Kudrin, Russia’s finance minister, probably struck even closer to the hearts of the billionaires in the hall. He noted Friday’s tumble on Wall Street and the spike in oil prices as an example of the instantaneous impact of global financial markets.

    “I think those here have lost hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, addressing the packed hall.

    In one of the forum’s more interesting non sequiturs, which continued a line of Russian foreign policy that has been emphasized in recent days, Mr. Kudrin also questioned the continuing existence of NATO.

    “Global institutions are not reacting quickly enough to today’s challenges,” he said. “But, of course, I don’t mean institutions such as NATO. I think such institutions should become history.”

    On Friday, Mr. Medvedev warned President Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia against seeking NATO membership.

    Mr. Putin has not appeared at this year’s forum.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  14. #14

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    Are we going to lob articles at each other?

    All I said was don't discount the importance of national pride. Russia was a military power long before the U.S.




    Friday, May. 09, 2008

    Resurgent Russia on Parade

    By Yuri Zarakhovich/Moscow

    Russia's traditional military parade, held every May 9 to commemorate the 1945 Victory over Nazi Germany, was particularly remarkable this year. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union 18 years ago, Russia rolled out heavy armor and missiles on Red Square in Moscow and central avenues of major Russian cities from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. And for the first time in eight years it was not Vladimir Putin who presided over the parade.

    The procession of firepower was designed to show that Putin's eight years as President has revived Russia's mighty Armed Forces, and with it Russia's national pride. "The victors gave us great reason to believe in our national strength, self-reliance and freedom," new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in his V-Day address. His thinly veiled comparison of the Nazi aggression 63 years ago with NATO's eastward expansion today echoed a favorite Kremlin propaganda theme for whipping up Russia's resurgent nationalism. Medvedev also condemned "any ethnic or religious enmity." That was perhaps an all but tacit reference to one bitter irony to this year's commemoration: in the first four months of 2008, Russian neo-Nazi attacks against members of ethnic and religious minorities killed 65 people and injured 124 more; in all of 2007 they killed 73.

    Medvedev was inaugurated on Wednesday in a lavish, grand and solemn ceremony. But on Wednesday — as on today — and probably not for the last time, his predecessor stole the show. Through force of habit or by design, TV cameras concentrated on Putin. Even Medvedev's inauguration speech centered on praise for his predecessor's achievements and promises to continue in Putin's steps. For his part, Putin segued smoothly from presidency to prime ministership. Formally nominated to head the government by Medvedev, Putin was confirmed in that post by a tame Duma in a rubber-stamp vote of 392 to 56 on Thursday.

    "I think no one has any doubt that our tandem, our cooperation, will only continue to strengthen," Medvedev said after the vote. Indeed, no one did harbor doubts about that, nor about who plays the first violin in the tandem. Putin's keynote address to the Duma forced Medvedev to shift his Presidential State of the Nation Address, traditionally delivered in the spring, to sometime next fall. On Friday morning, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin reviewed the parade side by side on the presidential dais, aptly decorated with Russia's double-headed eagle.

    A huge oil pipe spewing rubles might have been a more fitting emblem of Russia's resurgent strength than the arms of the moribund Russia Army. But even the rattling of a rusty saber served the political point of reminding NATO-friendly neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine, as well as other ex-Soviet Republics, who is still the big guy on the block. Still, with the price of bread and other foodstuffs skyrocketing, there was some grumbling about the circus. The popular Moscow daily Moskovski Komsomolets calculated that the cost of today's military parade could have bought the city of Moscow 25 badly needed new nursery schools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    Are we going to lob articles at each other?
    I only posted mine because I happened to be browsing the front page of the Times online, and it seemed a propos.

    All I said was don't discount the importance of national pride. Russia was a military power long before the U.S.
    I won't. I don't find the two mutually exclusive, just one stronger than the other.

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