Friday, October 31, 2003


The Russian Constitutional Court has declared unconstitutional the media restrictions banning political journalism that President Vladimir Putin signed into law. With the law in effect, media coverage of the December 7th parliamentary and March 2004 presidential elections would have been impossible. The decision, however, was only a small victory for the press which has seen an erosion of their ability to report events during the three years of Putin's presidency.
. . . several journalists and election law experts said the decision, while welcome, might have little practical effect in reversing the rollbacks of free speech under Putin. They pointed out that the state has already regained control of Russia's national television networks and has many other tools available to prosecute print and radio outlets it deems overly independent.
It's not a good sign when the government fiddles around with freedom of the press.
"The decision is a piece of good news, but only a piece," said Alexei Simonov, head of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a human rights group. "In general, the whole coverage is already infected by fear. Television is nothing already."

[ . . . ]

Anton Nosik, editor in chief of the Internet news service, said the government retains its ability to control the press or harass those who resist control." Just using the libel laws and the corrupt court system you can bankrupt any publication in this country," he said.
When viewed together, the events occurring in Russia within the past few months are most disturbing. Imprisoning high profile political opponents, freezing private citizens' assets, and placing restrictions and government pressure on press freedoms are police state tactics and precursors to totalitarianism.

But, the major media is not making a big deal of it. Maybe I'm wrong.

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