The Difference of Opinion

The coverage of news greatly differs in Russia from internal and external media sources. Most of the contrasting points are made about politics and the actions of the Kremlin. There is a bias in the way that news is covered coming from the different cultures and beliefs of journalists from different countries.

Below are the various news coverage from the last week in Russian, US, UK, and Greek media mainly from online and print agencies.

Weekly Coverage: Internal Russian Media

Image Courtesy of Rossiyskaya Gazeta

April 25th, 2016: According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the possibility of an information attack on Russia. Putin spoke at a conference insuring that he has been transparent with information to the public and stated that the new information is “nothing unexpected, and you cannot cross any red lines.” Putin further discussed that the Kremlin has not crossed any red lines and journalists revealing the information should not cross those lines as well.

Putin also noted that free-journalism has a double standard that the Kremlin has been willing to put up with. Originally, free-journalism was regarded as Kremlin propaganda and for the most part it still is, but now it is more about the struggle of journalistic interests being met by the public and government.

This article I found interesting because the entire piece is a collection of statements by Vladimir Putin. There is no actual story to the article, just a one-sided paper that contains Putin’s statements on the releasing of possible new information and Putin challenging Russian journalistic integrity. This coverage completely favors Putin and shines a light that makes him seem that he is doing right for the country, even though he is completely disregarding journalism and its nature to investigate issues. However, I am not surprised because the Rossiyskaya Gazeta is a government-owned daily paper.

Palmyra
Image Courtesy of Tass

April 25th, 2016: Tass, a state-owned online news agency, reported that Russia’s prominent historical Hermitage Museum is willing to participate in restoring a historical monument in Palmyra, Syria. With the current armed conflicts in Syria, Russia wanted to extend help in order to maintain and restore its famous monument in Palmyra. The organization that is helping to carry out this decision is UNESCO. Russia’s Foreign Prime Minister Sergey Lavrov, stated that their will be permanent representatives in Palmyra for this monument in compliance with certain provisions in the near future.

This article did a good job in not relaying a bias in what the coverage of the decision is. Tass explained what is happening very clearly and without heavily influence of the state or opposition of the state. I think that this article is appealing because it shows Russia in an international light that they are willing to help preserve areas of Syria with heavy conflict zones. Also, it shows Russia working with other countries that want to help out with the situation. So, it does put an international aid implication on Russia, but I do not think that is bad coverage or skews the public’s perception.

Image Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

March 15th, 2015: This article was featured on the front page of Novaya Gazeta the week of April 25th, 2016. There has been new findings in the release of information regarding the disappearing Boeing 777 Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014. The editorial office of the newspaper received a confidential document regarding the peer review of the Malaysian airplane disappeared. It has been confirmed that the plane was shot down by a land missile in the south-eastern region of Ukraine.

This article posted the entire peer review report of the plane crash. Novaya Gazeta laid out all the information for the public to view and make a decision or an opinion for themselves. Also, they invited interested parties to comment on the article and the document in their “pages” section on their website.

The journalists at this newspaper disclosed that they are not experts on aviation but merely messengers of this tragedy. They revealed that the airplane was shot down by the discovery of the planes remains and the external damage done to the aircraft.

Direction of Missile Strike | Image Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

The possible location of the missile launch is in the Donetsk region of Ukraine and there is possible implications that it could have originated from Russia. However, no clear launch site has been determined only estimated.

This article did a really great job in revealing what happened and gave solid evidence to back up all of its claims. Also, there was no bias and a clear disclosure of all available information. Even though this article raises more questions about the motives and reasons behind the destruction of the Boeing 777, it allows the readers to make their own opinions.

The one major difference between the internal media coverage of Russian interests from a state-owned paper as seen in the first two examples, to an independent investigatory paper as seen in the last example is the ability to form your own opinions. State-owned media draws conclusions for you and paints a picture about the government and what they are about versus what they actually represent. The independent media shows all of the evidence first, before implying a main point or position. They both equally cover the main issues in Russia, but lead you different feelings in terms of personal opinion after each type of article from various news media.

Weekly Coverage: External Russian Media

The Pentagon <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/09/politics/pentagon-budget-defense-department-isis-russia-north-korea/index.html" target="_blank">has requested $582.7 billion</a> for the upcoming fiscal year. A healthy chunk of that money would go to acquiring new hardware, including F-35 fighter jets. The Pentagon is requesting  $10.1 billion for F-35s in three variants:  43 F-35As for the Air Force, 16 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and four F-35Cs for the Navy.
Image Courtesy of CNN

April 15th, 2016: Russian fighter jets prose an issue with US Navy destroyer missiles in international waters, CNN reports. In multiple instances, Russian fighter jets flew 75 feet above the US Navy missile destroyer and displayed aggressive and fight-like maneuvers. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that Russia’s actions were “reckless and provocative.” Kerry went on to say how Russia was unsafe and unprofessional and the US views this very dangerously.

The article also stated how there was a Russian intelligence ship that has had close encounters with US ships and destroyers prior to the jet incident.

I think that CNN and the US has made Russia out to look very dangerous in terms of militant actions. Also, they were one-sided in the fact that they did not get any Russian comment in the article, just information from US officials. So, the external coverage in the US is to be on the lookout for suspicious and unexplained Russian behavior.

Russia: "they held secret talks with the US on the Assad future"
Sergey Lavrov | Image Courtesy of NewsBomb

April 18th, 2016: A Greek news outlet NewsBomb, reported that Russia and the US might have been engaging in secret talks about Syria in Geneva. The Russian Foreign Prime Minister Sergey Lavrov said that there are no secret negotiations going on between Russia and the US.

The article continued to discuss how Lavrov stated how the US should revive its allies with Turkey in order to continue to participate in the Syria crisis. Lavrov also added how Syrians will decide how they live, not by the US or Russia.

This Greek newspaper did not add its own voice in it. It seems that this Greek outlet is reporting on information between countries that does not have any meaning to their own. There were other news topics that corresponded between Russia and Greece, but they were not easy to find. Also, this paper shows that Greece is shedding a light on the US and Russia for being secretive and attempting to make secret moves without informing other countries. I am not particularity a fan of how Greece reports and the information they display.

The ‘Chandos portrait’, believed to be of Shakespeare, will be part of a major exhibition of British portraits to open at the Tretyakov gallery in Moscow on Friday.
William Shakespeare | Image Courtesy of The Guardian

April 21st, 2016: According to the British paper, The Guardian, Russia and Britain are coming together under one anniversary that may help decrease mutual distrust and disregard for each government.This 400th anniversary celebrates William Shakespeare. An infamous British literary figure and playwright, that is praised in Britain, is also regarded to equally as high of standards in Russia.

On the following Monday April 25th, all Russian schools will be required to have a William Shakespeare lesson. Also, in the following month Russia will have one of their metro’s decorated inside-and-out themed with Shakespeare.

This article was interesting in that it covered something other than political hot topics between the two countries– or so I thought. The article started out with the Shakespeare commonality, but then ended with the discussion of the past and current political turbulence between the countries. The piece did not even tie back to Shakespeare in its conclusion, it just ended with the political mistrust of the countries. I think that the Guardian could have done better by staying on topic. I do like how the article was more entertainment and lifestyle based, because it represented other sides to both countries.

Blast from the Past: The Ukrainian Revolution

The Ukrainian Revolution occurred in February of 2014. The revolution sparked as Ukrainians finally had enough of the corrupt government when their then President, Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a document that would lead Ukraine to be closer to the European Union. Instead, Yanukovych signed a multi-billion dollar loan with Russia. As corruption ensued and Ukrainians protested in the capital, Russia annexed the city of Crimea. The Ukrainian government was so weak that they allowed this to happen. Below is the coverage of the revolution from a Russian newspaper and an American newspaper.

Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

Russian Coverage: The Moscow Times reported on February 28th, 2014 stating that the real reason for the turmoil was due to wealthy business leaders in Ukraine. They discuss how in the 2000’s Russia had almost completely got rid of their powerful business leaders that influenced politics because of Putin. On the other hand, the Times stated that in 2004, Ukraine had reached the power of politics to be related to the status-quo of its citizens and not by the power of the president. They further report that because the current president did not have support of the big-business leaders, he was destined to fail and the government would suffer.

Grushevsky Street in Kiev (Jan 2014 file pic)
Image Courtesy of BBC

Ukrainian Coverage: An article released on November 21st, 2014 by Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov on BBC discussed the uprising in Ukraine earlier that year. The article showed that their had been lasting tension between the Ukrainian President and Vladimir Putin. It was stated that the Ukrainian President only seemed to sign a deal with the European Union to get revenge on Putin. Also, they reported on how the uprising scared Putin and Russia, so that was the driving force behind annexing Crimea. The article intended to show the war between Russia and Ukraine because of these uprisings and the corrupt and dangerous tactics that were being practiced in Ukraine.

Difference?

The main points of contrast between the coverage was that Russia blamed Ukrainian corruption on its wealthy business leaders and revealed that even though Russia went through similar power struggles, they are now fine and it did not lead to a corrupt government. The Ukrainian point of view stated that their had always been turmoil between Ukraine and Russia and how Russia could have played a significant role in the downward spiral of the Ukrainian government. They both express different point of views with the same information. This leads people to believe a specific side about their government and not to have an open opinion about what actually happened without bias.

 

 

Typical Journalist Role in Russia

With the growth of new media platforms, the traditional role of Russian media has changed. There are two main categories that Russian media outlets fall under: mainstream media that is state-controlled, and mainstream media that is privately or independently owned that is in opposition of the state. Within these boundaries, journalists have a few different roles.

Russian journalists have a partial watchdog role, providing analysis of the government and its tactics role, and also a censorship role.

The Watchdog Role

Russian journalists have a duty to be the “watchdog” for the citizens of their country. According to “Military and Society in Post-Soviet Russia” by Stephen Webber and Jennifer Mathers, Russian journalists are frustrated that they cannot fully participate in being the watchdog for the Russian society.

Because of the public’s distrust of local and national news media due to it being state-owned, there is extra caution that certain entities have to take when the media reports on them. Specifically the military. The military and the government have restrictions they want media to obey when reporting on them. However, there is a line of frustration that the military has when the media reports on armed forces, putting extra pressure on those officials. This does not stop media outlets from reporting on them.

Journalists are providing the watchdog role by making sure that there is a full spread of information that the public can gather on the armed forces and the government.

There is a direct correlation between the duties of the military and the media. The military feels as if they cannot freely perform their duties with the oppression of the local news media. In turn, the media feels constricted because the military wants to impose laws that narrow their boundaries of reporting as a watchdog.

In this sense, the media does have a partial watchdog role. Even though some information may be limited due to the powers of the military and the government, Russian journalists can still partially write in the best interest of the public.

Before diving into how journalists provide analyses of the government, we must first take a look at the whole picture internally of journalists.

What is it Like to Report Internally in Russia?

Most journalists in Russia have the same practices and values that align with their culture, the traditional role of the media, and the current state of the media.

According to Baltic Worlds, an online blogging source, journalism has a deep-rooted history with Russia in that it was initially established by people in authoritative power to inform as well as manipulate the public.

That being said, most journalists throughout Russia were either authors becoming journalists or vice versa. So, there is a huge literary influence in the writing style and practices of Russian journalists.

Reporting in Russia is very censored. The media does have some freedom as to the lengths they can go to when reporting on political information or any other topics that are tied to the government. Most news that comes out of Russia is political.

So, how do they report? Russian journalists have the right to inform the public, but they do this without full disclosure. They cannot reveal certain strains of information in the event that it makes the president or their federation look bad. This leads to the frustration of journalists because all of their work is constantly being monitored and critiqued to make sure that it does not do harm to the Kremlin.

There is a media regulation entity that looks over all publications that is state-owned and gives out warning to those who do not obey their limited press freedom. I will go into more depth in the section below about their censorship role.

Analysis of the Government Role

The Kremlin

Now that we have a better picture of what journalists can actually do in Russia, it is easier to understand how this affects their reporting as a media source and their analysis of the government that they provide to the public. The Baltic World reports on how most journalists provide analysis that is in favor towards the government and they do not tend to reveal information that is in opposition of the Kremlin.

Journalists are still using traditional practices, but molding them to the new social media platforms. They are managing the good conversations and boosting those profiles instead of editing out the bad information. They are trying to keep their audiences informed with traditional methods

The main source that professional journalists are getting their information from is blogs. Russian journalists use blogs to maintain a connection with their public’s and it serves as an investigatory and idea-popping site.

As for political coverage with the analysis of the government, the media has very strong controls during election campaigns (especially during the 2012 re-election of Vladimir Putin for a third time). So, their coverage and analysis of the campaigns has to be biased and skewed. This is because of the no-bad-reputation model that the Kremlin poses on all of its media outlets.

In total, their analysis of the Russian government and other topics is generally supportive of the government and at the very least cooperative.

Censorship Role

The limitations of the state go beyond the expectations and standards of the federation as they have Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state media regulator.

Roskomnadzor Logo

Roskomnadzor, is known for taking a very prominent role in issuing warnings for media publications that allegedly have broken the law. Once this regulatory body gives out two separate warnings, the media outlet can be closed down.

The censorship guidelines are very strict in making sure that journalists maintain the integrity of the Kremlin when reporting their news.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the media regulator was given permission in 2014 to “block content without a court order.” If the media outlets do not comply to taking down news stories such as protests for various issues in other countries that will “stir mass unrest,” they will be threatened to be blocked or shut down.

Some articles online that contain information that has been censored state “Censorship: Hidden on Roskomnadzor’s demand.”

So, this incredibly hinders Russian journalists to deliver information to the public as a normal news source would. Not only are journalists in Russia subject to traditional practices, the reliance on blogs for information, and extreme limitations on their content, but they are threatened with the shut down of their organization if their articles do not comply with Roskomnadzor.

Proceeding with caution for Russian journalists is something seeming of normality.

Main Media Outlets

Print:

Television:

  • Russia One – national network, run by state-owned Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK)
  • Channel One – national network, 51% owned by state, 49% by private shareholders
  • Ren TV – Moscow-based commercial station with strong regional network, majority-owned by media holding NMG

Radio:

  • Radio Russia – national network run by state-owned Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK)
  • Ekho Moskvy – editorially-independent station, majority owned by state-run Gazprom
  • Radio Mayak – state-run national network

Online:

The profile of the media outlets of Russia is courtesy of BBC. However, you can see that the majority of the public is getting their information from state-owned agencies which directly affects the readers trust and the journalists ability to produce content.

External Reputation of Media

Internationally, the media of Russia is known to have a huge bias because of government pressure. All outlets are considered to be a skewed version of the truth, or questioned on what the full extent of the story is.

Also, the world is aware of the murders that take place on various journalists that take a controversial look at what is happening within Russia.

So, the external reputation is that there are very strict laws on the media and most of what is produced is what the president and the federation want the world to know about their country. Seldom do readers experience the normal pattern of the Russian lifestyle or even the unbiased view of the country.

This makes it harder for native journalists to have break through content and really expose Russia for its whole truth in various situations.

Weekly News Coverage

The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski
Poland Prime Minister |  Image Source: The Gaurdian

April 15th, 2016: According to The Gaurdian, meetings between Russia and NATO has lead the Prime Minister of Poland Witold Waszczykowski, to believe that Russia is more dangerous than Isis.The article says that the reason for this is because Russia is actively testing the limits and capabilities of the defense in the Baltic Region. From my collection of this coverage, I do not believe that I have enough information to make a decision about whether this article has merit or not. I think that there should have been a significant amount of investigation into Russia’s defense activity instead of saying they are a dangerous threat without that great of an analysis.

 

 

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin | Image Courtesy of Tass

April 18th, 2016: According to Russian news outlet, Tass, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama had a phone conversation about the situation in Syria and how both countries can help further contribute to the humanitarian aid in the country. Also, this article discussed how Russia wanted to start “moderately” distancing itself from Syria even though they want to aim to help stop the violation of the ceasefire agreements within Russia. I am intrigued by this article, however for the public I think it is important for Tass to discuss the situation in Syria briefly so that the reader has the whole picture and is not looking to outside sources to fill in the information they have missed.

 

The Big Picture

Russia has gone through many social, economic, and political changes over the last 100 years. The most drastic change in their political system came from the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) by Joseph Stalin in 1922. With this communist government, the public suffered with very strict laws and a high risk of death or injury if their was no containment of opposing political views. After Stalin died, strides were made for the USSR to become an independent state under the communist party leader  Mikhail Gorbachev and President Boris Yeltsin. Russia became its own Republic and no longer a Soviet Union in 1991. Leaders within the government shifted, and Vladimir Putin became the new president in 2000 and is still in position of the Russian Federation.

President Vladimir Putin

Since Putin’s reign, there has been a lot of political turmoil. At his 2012 election, protesters spoke out against Putin and did not want him as their president. Putin’s response was to fine all protesters and making it illegal for them to organize against him fining those that violated this new law $9,000 to $18,000. This new fine was very drastic because the median income of Russians was about $8,500 according to infoplease.

 

Geography

Russia is the largest country in the circle of independent states in the East. The Russian Federation borders Norway, Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and North Korea.

 

Demographics

Russia is an old country dating back to its establishment of territory in the 800’s by local tribes. In terms of wealth and wealth distribution, Russia has one of the highest pay gaps in the world. According to RT, “35 percent of Russian household wealth is controlled by just 110 billionaires.” Although Russia is wealthier than its neighboring countries, there is still an inequality of wealth with the majority of citizens across the state.

 

Most Recent Political Issues and Conflicts

2014 Winter Olympics

In 2014, an international uproar was the result of Putin instating an anti-gay law that outlawed any form of gay movements or dissemination of LGBT information to minors. At this time Russia was to host the 2014 Olympics. Athletes threatened to protest the Olympics by not attending, however Russia’s legislation stated that it would not affect those in the games.

Crimea

Days after the winter games, Russia annexed Crimea which was formally part of Ukraine. Below is a political cartoon that was created by Dave Granlund that came out during this huge political shift.

Internationally, the U.S. and Europe refuse to recognize Crimea as part of Russia because it broke Ukraine’s constitution and international law. Russia had positioned troops in Crimea and it’s borders giving off the assumption that they might takeover another city in Ukraine. Agreements were made with Russia and Ukraine to withdraw troops, but Russia did not comply and as a result the U.S. sanctioned individuals from Russia and parts of their major businesses and stakeholders. Consequently, the Russian economy drastically declined and fell by 13% in 2014.

 

How Does This Affect Journalists?

Despite the reputation Russia has for foreign opinion about its government or practices, Russia feels the same way towards its internal media and public opinion. Russia has been known for some time to assassinate its own journalists. The reasons behind the attacks on major figures in media, is that the Russian Federation does not want the media to speak ill of its government or of its president. For more information on the major killings and the extent of the assassinations refer to my previous blog The Components of A Russian Journalist.

 

This Weeks Coverage

The Panama Papers

April 7th, 2016: According to The Guardian, Putin has stated that his name was not among those released in the files that were exposed from the Panama Papers. Putin believes this release of information to be an initiative that the United States is behind that is to “destabilize” their internal government. Only Putin’s friends and acquaintances were named in which Putin said he thought they did nothing wrong and is still very accepting of them. The Guardian did a good job in explaining what Putin said while giving context behind his friends that received money, but I would like to know more about what other world leaders think to his response. Putin and the Kremlin overall dismissed the allegations.

Suicide Bomb Attack

April 11th, 2016: A rural police station in southern Russia was attacked by three men and one of them was a suicide bomber, according to an article released this morning by The Guardian.

This attack had the police on high alert in a military-readiness mindset. This bombing has been connected to other car bombings and attacks in a Destroyed cars at a police station in Nazran, IngushetiaMuslim-majority neighborhood that has people with Islamic extremist affiliations. I like the way The Guardian presented the information, however it seemed that they did not do any of their own reporting and used information from other news sources. I would have liked to see some legitimate information because they did not seem to know much about what had taken place.

 

Oligarchical Economy?

April 11th, 2016: According to the Novaya Gazeta, a prominent newspaper in Russia, billionaires and private stakeholders will be asked to pay a one time fee (possibly multiple fees) and contribute to Russia’s economic crisis. They are now being held to “share the burdens of the country of crisis.” Putin stated that he wanted to “return the property to the people” by having more money coming back in and get elected again in the next race. The Novaya Gazeta was an interesting paper to read because I had to translate it into English. That being said, not all sentences translated directly, so it did limit my full understanding of the article. However, they did a good job of giving information on what policy was changing and why it was going to change and who it would benefit. I think they did a fair job in looking at the different factors involved and unveiling the best information.

The Components of a Russian Journalist

In the modern post-Soviet era of the Russian government, journalists have a limited power when it comes to press. Most of the publications in Russia are state-controlled in which the government has the power on what type of news it is revealing. This hinders the journalists’ duties to uncover and investigate stories within Russia. Only three broadcast stations are international while the other hundreds of publications are independent. However, it has been increasingly difficult to be an independent media source in Russia since the election of Vladimir Putin in 2000.

Who are the Journalists?

Most journalists working within Russia I have found to be predominately male ranging from about 25 to 55 years old. These reporters are mostly Caucasian natives to Russia.

What is it like to report in Russia?

The Russia is ranked 180 out of 199 countries with press freedom according to
PolitiFact. This number has continually dropped since Putin’s initial election. Russia is below countries for press freedom such as Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So, this shows the true limitation of what Russian journalists can not only report on, but share with the public. Because there is blocking and control on websites within Russia, broadcast is a huge area of opportunity to get the public properly informed. However, the control that the Russian government has on its media sources, restricts journalists from reporting on more controversial topics.

Russia is deemed with assassinating journalists. The most controversial journalist that was murdered was Anna Politkovskaya in 2006. She was one of the 34 journalists that have been assassinated since 2000. Anna was renowned for her critiques on the Russian government and topics of human rights during the time of the war with Chechnya. She had been shot and killed in her apartment after receiving numerous death threats. Anna is just one of the many that had been murdered due to the nature of their reporting and disseminating information. Although Putin is not directly linked to ordering the assassination, he has created a social and political climate to where most journalists that are murdered become unsolved mysteries that there is no culprit accounted for.

The culture around the media completely influences what journalists cover and how close to the restrictions they are willing to go to uncover secrets about the government and their state. Compared to other journalists in their region, Russia is blatantly more controlled and regulated in terms of media communications and coverage.

Most Influential Russian Journalists Today

Source: Google ImagesAndrei Babitsky: an infamous Russian journalist known for his coverage on the Chechen wars in Russia. Babitsky became the face of coverage for the Chechen wars because of his deep sympathy for the people. After being labeled a traitor and a Kremlin critic for his works, he started reporting in Donestk, Ukraine. Shortly after his reporting in Donestk, he was let go from his long-term employment in Russia and began to pursue the launching of a new television channel according to The Guardian.

Alexander Podrabinek: Russian journalist and human rights activist. Podrabinek
exposed the Soviet Union for punitive psychiatric practice and became a political prisioner and internally exiled from the USSR for five years. Podrabinek is known for his psychiatric books and articles, and continues to be involved in mainstream media today.

Andrey Vladimirovich Kolesnikov: Russian journalist and author. He served as deputy editor for The New Times in Russia. Kolesnikov is also a columnist and most known for being a political journalist.

 

 

This Weeks News Coverage

The Moscow Times reported an article on the leaking of information between Putin and his associates in affiliation with other world leaders in a major money laundering scandal. The leak of papers called the Panama Papers is a detailed list of all the transactions between Putin and his administration and off-shore sanctioned bank accounts to Switzerland and Panama. The total transactions that was calculated was about $2 billion dollars for Putin and his close associates. The story broke after a year long investigation.

Read the full article here.

The Moscow Times covered exactly enough information that the reader needed to know about this breaking news story. It gave us information about who was at fault and what the reasons were and the end result without the reader getting lost in the information. I believe it was a very important and informative article that unveils the corruption within Putin’s Regime.