Foreign Reporting

The foreign reporting in Russia is mainly covered my major news outlets in different countries throughout Europe and in America. Because Russia is a huge country in Europe, its politics, economy, and social infrastructure sets a tone for the rest of the European countries.

What Papers Regularly Cover Russia?

The main media coverage of Russia comes from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Belarus. Most of the reporting comes from countries that surround Russia while other news papers give it weekly if not daily coverage because of its size and relevance within international affairs.

  • The Guardian– featured in the World European News, a paper based in the United Kingdom
  • The New York Times– featured in the international section of the paper based in New York City, NY, USA
  • The Telegraph– featured in the World News section of the paper based in the United Kingdom
  • Kyiv Post– A Ukrainian daily that features Russian news in its own section (segregated from the World News section)
  • Belarus in Focus– features Russian updates in the international relations section of the paper based in Belarus

Each paper highlights Russian news differently. Most of the newspapers that are mentioned about cover all types of news stories from big to little. This means that there are human interest stories that are covered as well as big political and economical news. All of the papers above cover Russian media daily, besides the Belarus in Focus.

Something I found to be interesting while researching the various foreign news coverage of Russia is that the countries closest to Russia do not seem to have much coverage of the country that has a lot of influence over their country such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. However, I was not surprised to find out that the Ukrainian paper covers Russia like it would its own country.

The main papers I would like to focus on is The Guardian, The New York Times, and the Kyiv Post.

The Guardian

First, lets discuss The Guardian. This newspaper has freelance reporters working in Moscow that report locally for the majority of their stories. Also, they have staff reporters who live in Moscow and work for other editorials as well as staff reporters back in the UK who report remotely. Some stories you can tell are over-the-phone interviews, while others are more raw because they are doing the reporting in Russia themselves. There are very few if any wire stories relating to Russia for The Guardian.

The depth of coverage The Guardian gives Russia is quite extensive. They report on everything from news, politics, economy, to opinion pieces, arts and literature, and even Russia’s connection with other countries. The difference in the story is colored coded by the headline and photo that accompanies the story, so you can tell what type of news you are engaging with.

The Guardian is owned by The Guardian Media Group and its parent company is Scott Trust Limited, according to Google search. The Guardian is one of the largest papers in the UK and is highly respected among Europe. The Guardian expresses interest in Russia because it is one of the largest countries in Europe and it is a very powerful country that requires monitoring and accurate reporting of its endeavors.

The way The Guardian reports sets a standard for smaller papers in the UK as well as other papers in Europe. Some of their papers become wire stories at other news organizations throughout Europe. So, how they report and the bias/influence they bring to their stories highly affect how foreigners view Russia and how Russia’s international presence is recognized across the world. The Guardian is one of the main leaders in Europe to report on Russia and it is one of the most reliable sources in terms of accurate information with a limited bias.

The New York Times

Next, The New York Times (or the NYT as I will abbreviate it.) The NYT has staff reporters in New York that write about Russia, however some journalists do collaborate with other foreign reporters to get the story such as an American-Ukrainian or American-German journalism duo. So, most of the big stories do have a collaborating foreign journalist that helps with the information. This means that the NYT works with freelance journalists and staff reporters at the New York based paper.

Most of the papers that are done based in New York, are paraphrases of what was released from an official or phone interviews of people featured in the story. However, the photos that are used in almost every news story is a wired photo from Reuters or AP. None of the photos that are featured are taken in Russia themselves.

The depth of coverage from the NYT is not as extensive as The Guardian, but it does produce daily news stories about Russia. Most of the coverage is about big news events such as politics, social issues, or the economy that are highlighted in various other newspapers. There are a few exceptions of local stories with the help of freelancers that covers Russia.

The NYT is owned by The New York Times Company and founded by Henry Jarvis and Raymond George Jones. The NYT is a well established American daily that is highly referred to among people around the world. It is known for its in-depth coverage and investigative reporting. Because of its worldwide presence, the NYT strives to cover all important topics around the world. Russia is of interest because of its ties to the US and the highlights of political disdain between the two countries. Also, Russia has a huge stake in Europe in which is of high interest to the US in general.

The coverage of the NYT is very influential because it sets the tone for reporting in the US and guides other big papers in North America. There are other papers in the US region and in Mexico and Canada, but they do not report as much on Russia as the US does, mainly the NYT.

Kyiv Post

Lastly, lets talk about the Kyiv Post. The Kyiv Post is a daily that operates in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The paper has a few freelance reporters but they mainly have staff reporters that publish wire stories from other media organizations. The stories that are published by the staff writers in Kyiv are either reporters from Ukraine themselves or they are former Russian reporters that were seeking more press freedom. The Kyiv Post does not do on-scene reporting from what I can conclude from my research.

Most of the coverage from the Kyiv Post that is featured is wired stories of large news events that cover political, social, and economic issues. But, the interesting part of this paper is that the limited coverage that the staff reporters write on Russia, are mainly local stories and hot topics within the local community in Russia. So, even though there is not a whole lot of Ukrainian coverage on Russia by the paper themselves, they do include something that other papers do not: the local scene.

Even though there is a local feature to the Kyiv Post, most of the reporting is done by the phone, or from knowledge of a source or reporter that has previously lived in Russia. THe Kyiv Post is owned by Mohammad Zahoor who is a British citizen that formerly worked in Donetsk, Ukraine. The paper is operated through Zahoor’s Public Media company. Zahoor took over the paper in 2009 to revive it and give it back its editorial independence, according to Wikipedia (yes, I know Wikipedia but, it is the only source of reference for the history behind the Kyiv Post based on my research.)

This Ukrainian paper has deep-rooted interest in Russia because of the reoccurring conflicts between the two countries and the political turmoil that has occurred with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. There is a long history between Ukraine and Russia, and that history will forever promote the interest each country has with one another.

The difference in coverage from in Ukraine from other countries that surround Russia is that it is more focused and tailored. Most other media organizations that surround Russia mainly post wired stories. I found this to be very interesting because I feel like they would have more to say since they are so close, but that is not what I found to be true. The Kyiv Post has the upper hand when it comes to media relations with Russia.

Weekly Coverage

For my last weekly coverage segment, I wanted to do something a little bit different. So, here is the same story that was in the headlines this week, but it is covered by the three newspapers that I covered above: The Guardian, The New York Times and The Kyiv Post. I think this is important because it shows the different lens and influence each media outlet has on the public.

Nadiya Savchenko

May 27th, 2016: According to The Guardian, a Ukrainian pilot that was just released from Russian prison will try for the Ukrainian presidency if she has a large enough following. Nadiya Savchenko is Ukraine’s first female military pilot. Savchenko was freed from prison in Russia where she was held captive as a war prisoner and was pardoned by Vladimir Putin. During her time in captivity, she was elected into the parliament of the Council of Europe. Savchenko was also charged with the murders of two Russian journalists. Despite her charges, Ukrainians believe her to be a hero.

I think the way they covered this issue was interesting because they focused on words of her saying that she wanted to be the next president of Ukraine, without giving details of the full reasons she was behind bars and held captive. I would have liked to know more about the background story but I did find this to be an interesting take on the story.

May 25th, 2016: According to The New York Times, the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko is a high-profile Russian war prisoner that was released after two years in custody. Russia exchanged Savchenko for two Russian military intelligence soldiers. Russia refuses to acknowledge that they played a role in any war and that Savchenko was arrested on charges of murdering two Russian journalists. Vladimir Putin pardoned Savchenko because of a request from the journalists families.

The NYT went on to describe Savchenko’s demeanor and her attire. They also began to glorify her and make her a symbol of a Ukrainian struggle that is starting to be overcome. I think it was interesting because this piece talked about how she was a celebrity and hero figure that was played out to be a criminal. They talked more about the behind the scene story which is something I liked compared to The Guardian post.

March 22nd, 2016: The Kyiv Post reported on Lt. Savchenko on trial in Russia being convicted of complicity in murder. The article reported in a similar style to the NYT but it played on the fact that there was so much confusion and that Savchenko was in farce. The Kyiv Post also talked about her 22 or 23 year sentence that a lot of people were outraged by.

This article is different from the others because it played to a side that Savchenko was an innocent person who was illegally detained and that Russia was trying to find someone to blame for the murders. This article downplayed any actual role Savchenko had in this issue and was more geared toward Russia being the “bully.” I did think it was very interesting in the direction this article took.

Each article about this Ukrainian pilot is conveyed in a different way: the next president, the hero, and the wrongly convicted. This story that was covered by different foreign correspondents shows the vast difference in what the world views and perceives about Russia.

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Being Gay in Russia: What does it mean?

A new wave of questioning has been brought up in the past few years in Russia regarding Anti-gay laws that were introduced by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

What is the Original Law?

In the Russian Federation Constitution, Chapter 2 Article 19 states “The State shall guarantee the equality of rights and freedoms of man and citizen, regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, origin…” meaning that everyone should have the same rights under the Russian Federation law. But, we know in recent years that is not the case. Article 19 then proceeds to state, “All forms of limitations of human rights on social, racial, national, linguistic, or religious grounds shall be banned.”

In recent years, the laws Vladimir Putin brought in directly conflict with what the constitution outlines for the freedoms of Russian citizens. This has led to a huge issue of not only where should Russians citizens stand on the topic, but also how does the LGBT community express themselves within Russia.

What is the New Law?

 

 

Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

Putin introduced a new law that outlaws propaganda and teaching nontraditional forms of sexual relations to minors. Basically, this law makes it so Russians cannot teach or inform their children about the possibilities of being LGBT, or give them access to any resources if they felt they were apart of that community.

 

According to PolicyMic, the ban has directly violated the citizens constitutional rights and has extended to Russians getting heavy fines for gay pride parades and forming gay rights groups. Also, they reported that attacks against gays or “suspect gays” are becoming very commonplace in Russia.

So, not only is it becoming extremely difficult to be a member of the LGBT community in Russia because of the new law, but there is also a new wave of social criticism for being in that community. A lot of Russians view being gay as something that is wrong and should not happen. As we see in the United States, this is the complete opposite view.

Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

In 2015, The Moscow Times reported that Russians views towards gays was significantly worse than a decade ago. The percent of Russians who are against same-sex marriages was 80% in 2015 compared to 59% in 2005.

The poll conducted in The Moscow Times article also revealed that 20% of Russians think that gay people are dangerous and should be “isolated from society.”

That is a huge percentage of the Russian population that have very strong negative views towards the LGBT community. This is something that the new law has expedited in the minds of Russian citizens. Putin set an example for the Russian people by outlawing gay marriages and propaganda towards resources about the LGBT community.

Even Russians that have no views towards people’s sexual preferences, still admitted that they would not socialize with gays. The poll also showed that there was a 1% decrease in the percentage of people who think being gay is a medical or social disease from 36% in 2004 to 35% in 2015.

There is not much positive change for the LGBT community in Russia. Not only was there a strong stigma before the introduction of Putin’s new law in 2013, but that stigma has increased since the law was approved and has spread to negative social implications of Russian life as well.

The Media in Relation to LGBT Rights

 

Activists say that Russia’s gay propaganda law has set the community back to the times of Ancient Rome
Image Courtesy of The Guardian

Based on my research of LGBT topics in Russia, the media mainly does not cover this topic unless it can be somewhat linked to a crime or if laws were changed (such as when Putin changed the law in 2013.)

The general media coverage of the gay community is explaining situations that involve their community and those who give their opinions about the community. No media organizations talk about the resources available for the gay community. Also, they do not interview or get the perspective point of view of any LGBT person. I believe this to be for two reasons: 1) The LGBT person identified would be at risk for harm by other Russian citizens because of their disapproval and potentially at financial risk from the government or even incarceration and 2) the media organization can also face hefty fines and criminal charges for allowing the dissemination of information about the LGBT community because minors have the potential of consuming that media organization.

So, there is a lot at risk for the organizations that do chose to cover this information. There is also a split between what organizations are willing to cover it. For example, The Moscow Times is an independent organization from the influence of the Kremlin, so they are more willing to write articles about this subject. The state-owned organizations eliminate this information all together unless it is about a change in the law, then they will report the facts.

Even though more independent organizations report on this topic, it is mainly a sum of events. There is no personal interjection from any LGBT member in any article. Most media organizations stray away from that not only because of the potential danger associated with it, but also because there is a huge negative stigma that overshadows the gay community.

Why is This Important?

Featured Story

Dmitry Tsilikin | Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

April 14th, 2016: The Moscow Times reported on a local famous theater critic. This was not any normal story because this renown critic and highly respected in Russia was murdered. Dmitry Tsilikin was known for always being on time and very well-connected, so when he missed his deadlines and would not answer his phone people knew something was wrong. Tsilikin had stated that if he ever missed a deadline it would probably be because he was dead. Tsilikin was found murdered in his apartment and the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. The Moscow Times made a connection that this happened most likely because he was gay.

Tsilikin kept his private life very private, so it was a shock to most when they found out the news. Investigators did find a 21-year old university student to be at fault. The young student had been in contact with Tsilikin from an online chat room.

This story is featured because it is really important in regards to the events that have been happening in Russia. Putin’s new law was passed in 2013, and now three years later we see the stigma in Russia still runs very deep.

Tsilikin was a respected figure in the media circuit in Russia. The death was meant to be a statement to the LGBT community and the murderer stated that he was a “cleaner” by killing Tsilikin.

If the felon is convicted, it is very likely that the killing will not be ruled a homophobic killing. This goes to show that even in a brutal homicide case of a well-known figure, the stigma of gay people is so strong that Tsilikin’s case will not be brought to full justice.

Weekly Coverage

Eurovision 2014 | Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

May 13th, 2016: Eurovision, Europe’s infamous singing competition, had a cross-dressed winner from Austria in 2014. According to The Moscow Times, Eurovision had a huge gay audience that expressed disapproval and booed the Russian contestant at the competition. However, the new Russian candidate for presidency Sergei Lazarev, had mad notions that he does support the gay movement. So, in upcoming years if Russia elects Lazarev, Russians can expect some sort of change on the LGBT community front.

I think The Moscow Times did a good job of explaining the past Eurovision competitions and why it was important for the gay community. Also, it did shed light on LGBT issues on which prompted a better response from on of the Russian candidates. They explained the problem without taking a side– which they should have had the 2014 winner interviewed, but that would most likely never happen.

April 20th, 2016: According to The Guardian, there is one gay nightclub left standing in Samara which is one of Russia’s most homophobic cities. This club has very high security, and there is no telltale signs that a nightclub exists at that venue– no groups of smokers, no audible music from outside, or spotlights coming from the club. This long-time homophobic area is known for its criminal injustice in gay crimes. For this reason, the club is half empty on Saturday nights and the same people go every time. The article further goes into how Russian citizens are feeling like they are second-class citizens for being gay.

I liked this article a lot because it informed the readers on the nightlife of the LGBT community in Russia and it also gave some personal views from citizens in the gay community. The Guardian did not stray away from opposing viewpoints and really captured the feeling and the disrespect that gay Russian citizens feel on a daily basis.

 

Press Restrictions

 

Quick Facts According to the Freedom House on Russia in 2016:

  • Russia is NOT FREE in terms of press freedom
  • They have an 83/100 on their press freedom score (100 being the worst)
  • Russia is scored at a 34/40 in having a bad political environment
  • They got a 25/30 on their current legal environment (30 being the worst)
  • On their economic environment, Russia got a bad score of 24/30

 

First Amendment-Like Laws?

Russian Federation Constitution 

Under the Russian Federation’s constitution, Russians have freedom of speech and expression. Also, the mass media has complete freedom and censorship is forbidden under Article 29 in Section 1 Chapter 2 of the constitution.

Let that sink in.

After the statistics above of how NOT FREE Russia is, you can see that their constitution outlines the exact opposite. So, why is Russia really not free? That has everything to do with the current president in power, Vladimir Putin.

 

Censorship

Russian media does practice a high level of censorship. Most of what the media portrays is based on official statements by Vladimir Putin. Putin has the power to hire and fire specific positions within large media organizations. According to the HuffPost, Putin appoints editors and directors either officially or unofficially. Also, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s major independent radio station, Echo Moskvy, can only be fired by Putin himself.

The HuffPost goes on to report that top Russian media outlets have weekly meetings with the presidential administration to go over what news should be covered and how they want to cover it (well the news they can control such as politics and government business.)

But, most reporters were not fighting for the freedom of speech they once had at the end of the Soviet era. Reporters used to be able to write and say things critically about the Kremlin before Putin came to power. It became something of the “new normal.” Not all reporters have the same values, but the majority of reporters go along with the censorship because they were bought by big companies or take the risk of losing their job by not obeying the general “censorship laws.”

So, with so many media outlets obeying Putin’s press standards, it is no wonder that Russian citizens believe everything they see or hear from the media. No, not all organizations have the people’s trust, but they are still subject to what is reported because that is the only “truth” they hear.

 

Pressures for Journalists

Most Russian journalists face political pressure when reporting. A lot of restrictions are imposed on journalists which hinders their ability to be transparent.

A new law introduced in 2015 outlawed media outlets from reporting or reproducing material from “undesired” foreign organizations that pose a threat to national security or engage in various forms of activism according to The Moscow Times.

This law did not specify the repercussions for violating its terms nor did it outline or give an example of what an “undesirable” foreign organization is. This puts all Russian journalists at risk. With no indication of the perimeters of the law, they have to self-censor all of the materials they cover. This stands for journalists who work independently, for a state-owned organization, or for a business/independent-owned organization.

However, if individuals breech this law, the first penalty is around a $300 fine while the second penalty is up to six years in prison. So, media outlets are allowed to say that these organizations exist, but they cannot provide any content or material surrounding the organization. This puts up each journalist for their own censorship to evade the vague repercussions of this law.

Another form of government and political restriction was introduced in 2014 where bloggers are now held to the same standards as the mass media outlets. Before 2014, bloggers could say what they wanted with no limitations or censorship. When Putin got reelected in 2012, he reformed the internet laws so that bloggers are now condemned to the same rules as professional journalists according to the International Business Times.

The crackdown on the internet has only progressed since the introduction of the law in 2014. Putin has no problem penalizing those who break the law, blacklisting them from the internet, or taking down an internet organization all together.

 

How Do Journalists Still Operate Despite the Restrictions?

Most journalists operate very discretely due to the nature of their government and the restrictions on their practices. Those Russian Journalists who are more liberal and want the ability to criticize the government or other media practices, go on to independent news outlets or become freelance journalists.

However, even though those Russian journalists want to be fully transparent, they are at higher risks of personal danger when doing so. Because of fear of repercussions and straying from societal norms, most journalists have turned to taking the censorship with a grain of salt.

Russian journalists see censorship as a damaging media practice, but they do not want to lose their jobs or risk harming their reputation over a statement or an article. A lot of what journalists focus on is what they can control such as local news stories, business facts, or human interest pieces. In regards to the government, they do not criticize the Kremlin, but just present facts which is the main way that they get around to informing the public without impairing their reputation or facing repercussions.

 

Conclusions on Press Freedom

There will be no way around the restrictions that are condemned on Russian journalists while Putin is in power. There may be a slight chance for change in media if there was another president in power, in which they would have the option to relinquish freedom of the press as it once was at the end of the Soviet era before Putin’s reign.

Journalists in Russia either deal with the censorship laws and the risk of criminal charges, or they turn to go report elsewhere. Most journalists that do report elsewhere mainly go to Ukraine from the research I have done. But, there is no way that media organizations can be transparent or even trusted when the government has control over almost every media entity.

 

Weekly Coverage

RBC Newspaper | Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

May 13th, 2016: According to The Moscow Times, three top managers leave Russia’s leading independent news organization, RBC. Some believe that the reason for the top managers leaving was due to pressures from the authorities and the pushing of censorship from the company’s owner. After the editor-in-chief of the paper was fired by the owner of the company, and then RBC’s other top executives resigned. This came about after a series of raids at the paper due to the governments dislike of reports on the Panama Papers. This brought out numerous investigations by the government and led to 13 more employees to hand in their resignation at the paper.

I believe that The Moscow Times did an adequate job of explaining the issue and the facts behind the problem. They did not criticize any entity in doing so, and they also informed readers with the most relevant information. This applies directly to freedom of press because it shows real repercussions of the governments dislike of newspapers and reports that are not favorable. This allows for people’s jobs and lives to come into question.

Jamala with bunches flowers
The Winner Jamala | Image Courtesy of The Guardian

May 15th, 2016: The Eurovision singing competition that is taken very seriously in Europe has led central Moscow to express anger and dismissal according to The Guardian. This famous singing competition was just won by a Crimean Tatar native that is living in Ukraine. The singer Jamala was representing Ukraine and sang “1944” that had lyrics regarding the deportation of Ukrainians and focused on the new issues of Crimea from 2014 between Ukraine and Russia. The Russian contestant was placed third in the competition. Russia has threatened to boycott next years competition.

 

The coverage by The Guardian of this topic was fair in revealing both sides of the issue, (meaning the Ukrainian and Russian side.) Moscow was angered because of the political stance that Jamala’s song carried and how it portrayed Russia as “evil.” I think that they did a good job of explaining the contest and the political turmoil behind it. The most interesting part of this story was that it was not heavily covered by Russian media. Although many Russians are aware of the song and the outcome of the contest, Russian media outlets failed to report that much or anything on it. This further demonstrates how Russian media is censored because the government will not allow its own media to put the country in an unfavorable light.

 

What’s the Harm?

Russia is among the top five deadliest places to report news in the world.

Why is that? History of Conflict

The limited press freedom that journalists face is very well maintained throughout the country and has been for hundreds of years. The government views local journalists that continuously criticize and speak out against the Kremlin as threats. So, government officials take action.

According to the CPJ, 36 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 1992. Most of the journalists that were murdered were print reporters or editors. Every single murder investigation and case of journalists, there has been no accused killer or named assassin. Every single case has been unsolved in terms of who is responsible.

All of the reporters that were murdered were native to Russia. The beats that they were covering mostly consisted of corruption, crime, and politics.

A reported 89% of these journalists had complete impunity. The highest percentage of assassins behind these murders is given to government officials followed by gangs.

Why are they unsolved?

Most investigators are afraid of repercussions from the government if they carry out their normal duties according to The Guardian. The police have the will to fully process each murder, but most murders took place in small towns so higher positions of authority “stop justice in its tracks.”

“To be a journalist in Russia is suicide. It is suicide if you talk about the truth.”

-Vladimir Yurov, The Guardian.

The Russian government maintains this integrity because there is still numerous attacks on journalist every year and for every attack there are hundreds of threats.

Journalists who work at independent news agencies are more vulnerable to attacks and threats then those who work for state owned media. The suspicion and violence that the government releases on its reporters has become they new standard of society in Russia.

Why are the Independent Media Still Around?

The main reason that Russia keeps their independent news outlets is because of pressure from the West. Most politicians in Russia have real estate or ties to other countries in various forms and dissolving independent media within their country would cause huge issues with the West, according to The Guardian.

Foreign Journalists in Russia

Most reporters coming into Russia are not in that much danger when working in Russia. Foreign journalists do not know the full extent of the underlying issues and risks that local journalists do in Russia.

Foreigners only capture the glimpse of what is really going on within the country. So, they do not pose a threat to the government and as a result they are safer than the native journalists.

However, even though foreign journalists are not in any physical danger, they are very limited in the amount of information that they receive. The most difficult city to report in is Moscow, because it is the central hub of Russia and where the Kremlin resides.

According to Business Ukraine, there Russians that are willing to go to Ukraine to carry out murders of Ukrainian reporters. However, this is not as likely because the majority of foreign reporters that work in Moscow mostly come out with biased or misleading information rather than being in any true danger.

Mapping The Risk

Screenshot (90)

Above are a few of the recent threats and detained journalists in Russia. Although there are no current maps of areas where journalists have been murdered, detained, or threatened, most of them happen in small town areas away from big crowds.

The Kremlin knows that they would draw too much attention and create panic if they were to assassinate journalists in high traffic areas. But, that does not mean they have completely strayed away from that. No matter where the journalist is murdered, the investigation will not come to fruition because of the pressure from higher authority in the justice system.

My Profile

I am a Caucasian woman from the United States. I would face limited information in terms of facts and sources if I were to report in Russia. I would possibly receive threats from the government if I wrote an opposition piece but the level of physical danger would be very low. I would have a hard time getting to know locals in Russia and I would get a very biased and one-sided view of the country and the current issues within the country.

Any piece I would write would most likely get trolled by paid government supporters advocating for Putin.

Since I am a Catholic, I would not necessarily face any issues in terms of religion. The difference in religion within Russia is not something of danger or high concern.

I am a straight woman, so I would have no target on my back in terms of sexual orientation. If I had not been straight, I would face a high level of ridicule and danger as being homosexual is a crime and most Russians feel very strongly about gay laws.

As for weather, I would not face high exposure but I would have to be aware of the colder climates that are prevalent in Russia.

For the most part, it is safe for me to report in Russia and I would not have that many issues reporting. However, I would get skewed information about Russia from various sources. The only way I believe I could get a true sense of Russia is if I lived there for a few years and did some reporting after I lived like a local for some time.

I would have to adjust to the lack of press freedom and speech freedom. I would have to be more careful about what I say, who I say it to, and where I say it. I would have to tone down my level of freedom and become more restricted and oppressed if I wanted to report in Russia or have any influential say in the current issues.

Current Threat Level

Based on my research, the same level of threat of journalists in Russia remains to be very high and very deadly. There is no indication that Russia will ease up on their restrictions any time soon.

The majority of those being killed are men, so women are among those who are safer when it comes to targeted journalists. But, depending on the level of influence for a given reporter, they are at risk of danger.

There is no real bias when it comes to those reporters in danger. The basis for threats and attacks are more geared towards their work and what they publish that seems like a threat to the Kremlin.

This Weeks Coverage

donald trump
Image Courtesy of The Guardian

April 28th, 2016: According to The Guardian, Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation fully support and are reacting positively to Donald Trump becoming the next possible US President.Russia has stated that they are accepting of Trump’s foreign policy ideas. Also, Russia praises Trump for his willingness to negotiate and not be in conflict with the Kremlin as the current US administration is now. The Guardian did a good job of displaying all of the facts in how Russia is responding to Trump’s allegations and their views on him and the future. This article also talked about other countries and their views of Trump that was all negative besides Russia. I think this article is very interesting in how world leaders view the US’s presidential race.

Image Courtesy of The Moscow Times

May 2nd, 2016: The Moscow Times reports on Vladimir Putin signing a new law that allows foreign refugees to become a Russian citizen faster. The government formerly had foreign refugees wait for a year to become a citizen while the necessary steps were taken to provide them with citizenship. Now, they are able to be given permits to where they can get housing before becoming locals in Russia. This was mostly geared toward Ukrainian refugees. Refugees can voluntary participate in the resettlement program before having Russian residency. The Times gave out all the necessary information needed for the reader to understand that their are new laws in place and the extent of what the law now is without giving out too much information and boring the readers.

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.