There have always been disagreements between people in the history, mainly because of self-interests. No big politician is a good man or woman, at least, for the reason that they have to take one position as their own excluding the opposite opinion and lying, as a result. For any politician national interests must be the top-priority, what means rival nations will be always on two opposite sides of the boarder. Those who are challenged from outside have no other choice than to find support and eliminate betrayers inside to keep the power and succeed in their goals. That is what Vladimir Putin is doing. If he would not be capable of interfering with Russian Media and gaining public mandate through it, he could not keep his power and play his role as a president of the Russian Federation. I cannot define his as good or bad, like generally Russian TV says, “he’s good”, and Western (plus Ukrainian now too) claims that he’s an evil. However, as a politician (although, not as a person), in my eyes, he deserves to be a president of my country, because he protects national interests by any means, and he kept his promises so that Russia stepped up prominently during his government. As a part of his strategy Vladimir Vladimirovich demands Russian journalists to be on his side of the boarder.
Generally speaking, journalism has a democratic duty to draw objective picture by gathering and conveying facts, independently from politics and business. However, in reality that does not happen often. Everywhere in the world politicians understand the power of journalism and have many different fair and unfair ways to influence public opinion through it, especially, now in information age, where one information war changes another.
“No one understood better than Putin just how powerful television could be in the new Russia and that he who controls it controls the country” (“Kremlin Rising”, p.83). People get the information about current news from media. Despite there are many other sources, in general the strongest media power still remains to be the television, like it used to be the main instrument of propaganda in the Soviet Union. It is not just the matter of preferences of people; TV basically has more advantages compared to newspapers, internet and other sources. Everybody has access to it, it used to dominate the press since its introduction to the masses, and the way the information is presented on TV is based on long experience of how people perceive it and react to it, so the broadcasters know how to send their message to deserve audience’s attention. Convenience and professionalism contribute to the popularity of today`s thin screens all over the world. In Russia where there is a family habit to end up every evening in the kitchen, staring at the TV screen, broadcasting brings wide possibilities. There is also internet which is becoming more and more influential in recent years, but as the statistics show, most of people appeal to it in case they have got extra-curiosity and want to be aware of more details. Yet, TV channels are dominating other news sources, people listen to them more.
For me it used to be a question why Mr. Putin is so evil in the West. It turns out, that he is a malicious dictator who violates human rights and follows his geopolitical ambitions no matter how many people are wasting away on his way. Some Western authorities, like all respected Hillary Clinton, even put him on the same line with Adolf Hitler, comparing Third Reich’s actions in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1930s to Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, where casualties in terms of human lives were minimal if took place. It does not mean, of course, that all Western newsmakers and their salesmen hate Putin, but it is much easier to find the one who hates him than who admits correctness of his actions. I wonder why.
No doubt, Putin has significant control over TV broadcasting in Russia and it barely fits his democratic propositions. After May 2000, when “masked, gun-toting tax police arrived at Media-Most offices and ransacked the place” (p.83), Vladimir Gusinsky, owner of the first independent television media in Russia, was arrested and then released in exchange of giving up his NTV channel, which was later taken be state-owned Gazprom. He was seized by state prosecutors for the reason of promoting Putin’s enemies and most importantly because of “critical reports of the second war in Chechnya”. Another example is a mysterious murder of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 which led to a huge scandal. She was also criticizing Russia`s, particularly, Mr. Putin’s actions in Chechnya. On October, 7th her shot dead body was found near her apartment in Moscow. Investigating authorities still cannot solve who exactly was involved in the assassination. Ramzan Kadyrov, current head of Chechen Republic, right after Anna’s death in 2006 said, that despite her materials on Chechnya were not always objective he is sincerely sorry for what happened to her and killing a journalist is a great threat to the freedom of speech, what is unacceptable in a democratic society. On 10th of June, 2014, federal channel Rossiya 24 reported that, although, 6 people are in the prison already, advocacy claimed about the violation of defendants’ rights. Who stood behind the scene is still obscured.
Russian coverage of Chechen terroristic attacks in Beslan and on theater in the center of Moscow were extremely different from those made by foreign media. “When the first bombs exploded, CNN and the BBC immediately went to live coverage of Beslan, but Russia’s state television networks, controlled by the Kremlin, did not cut into regular programming for an hour, leaving viewers watching a comedy film” (p.34). Why the president kept silent when lives of hundreds innocent children and their parents hung by a thread? “Toxic hate, intolerance, corruption, indifference in human life – in Putin’s Russia, these were the legacies of the war in Chechnya that became clearer than ever when the chemical spray dissipated in the theater on Dubrovka Street” (p.177). Was the reason for his silence just a fear to lose the power when Russians would discover the truth?
It is hard to believe that someone, who is really making tremendous changes for millions, is playing with human lives so easily. Since Putin came to power in 2000, life expectancy raised on 10 years in the country, while salaries jumped from average $80-90 to $900-1000 per month. There are many new places for people to go even in Siberian provinces which never have been there before, and it is not that scary to go out in the evening as it was a few years ago. Life progressed dramatically. I bet he is not a tyrant and despot or slave of the power. He might have prevented future terroristic attacks by not giving those Chechens in early 2000s what they wanted; attention. The war could not stop only because of some terroristic attacks, it was very costly. In addition, in Russia you can openly criticize his presidency, and there are many critics of him, professional and not, so people do not live under the pressure of his antidemocratic regime. Just be clean and stay cautions and you will not end up like Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2005. However, the fact that he hides many truths and lies is unarguable, because naturally politics is a game of venturous foxes.
Tariq Ali in the Guardian (28, March, 2014) partially answers my question, why Western media hates Russian President, “because Putin, unlike Yeltsin, is refusing to play ball any more on the things that matter such as NATO expansion, sanctions on Iran, Syria etc. As a result, he has become evil incarnate. And all this because he has decided to contest US hegemony by using the methods often deployed by the west”. He is right to some extent, yet facts like effectiveness of his not only political, but economic steps could be considered only in 5-10 years. If “Second world” Russia catches up and overtakes wealthy nations with their civil societies in the future, than Putin will become the one who has made the most outstanding affords for it. (1364).
Baker P., Glasser S. (2006). Kremlin Rising. Vladimir Putin`s Russia and The End of Revolution, p. 83, 34, 177.
June 10, 2014. Rossiya 24. Retrieved from http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1671633 (in Russian)
Taril A. March 28, 2014.The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/28/why-putin-crimea-strategy-west-villain