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
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.
The limitations of the state go beyond the expectations and standards of the federation as they have Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state media regulator.
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
- Komsomolskaya Pravda – mass circulation, left-leaning daily, controlled by energy group YeSN
- Moskovsky Komsomolets – popular privately-owned Moscow daily
- Novaya Gazeta – twice-weekly, known for its investigative journalismRossiyskaya Gazeta – government-owned daily
- The Moscow Times – English-language daily
- 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 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
- Itar-Tass – state-owned news agency, pages in English
- Lenta.ru – popular online news source
- VKontakte – leading social network
- LiveJournal Blog – major blogging source
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
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.
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.