The World Press Freedom Day on May 3 might have been marked by some interesting local opinion pieces but elsewhere more severe action has been mobilised against journalists who may be inclined to ask ‘stupid’ questions. There have been protests in Venezuela over the Chavez government’s decision to withdraw the broadcasting licence for RCTV, Venezula’s oldest private broadcaster – the frequency is to be allocated to a new government-funded station – more legal challenges to that decision are expected and there’s been some international media focus. Meanwhile the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger reports from a meeting in Harvard of The Organisation of News Ombudsmen on the tactics used in Turkey and Russia.. where radio news journalists have resigned from the Russian News Service after a new management team insisted they ignore the opposition movements and allocate at least 50% airtime to “positive news”. The Nation’s Editor’s Cut blog has more on Putin’s tacticsFrom The Nation’s Editor’s Cut
In mid-April, the police raided the offices of Internews Russia (recently re-registered as the Educated Media Foundation.) EMF has been a Russian-run NGO since the mid-1990s, specializing in training broadcast journalists, technicians and managers. It’s also helped local journalists launch television news programs and a documentary series focusing on their own cities and villages, as an alternative news source to the state and Moscow-based channels. The raid on the groups’s Moscow offices, during which the police took away all the computers/servers, and boxes of financial documentation, forced them to suspend all training activities. Similarly, on May 11, police raided the offices of the Samara regional edition of Novaya Gazeta, one of the few national independent newspapers left, and confiscated three journalists’ computers. (The police claimed they were in search of illegal software.)
In these bleak times for independent media in Russia, what is heartening are signs of solidarity among Russian journalists. A few weeks ago, for example, Tv2, located in the Siberian city of Tomsk, posted an open letter to President Putin in defense of independent media (and specifically in support of the Educated Media Foundation.) Within a few days more than 2000 journalists from almost all Russian regions had signed the petition.
And just a few days ago, all four of the radio correspondents for the Russian News Service, which provides news for three major radio stations serving about 8 million people, submitted letters of resignation. Artem Khan, a correspondent for the Service, said that he and all of his colleagues have walked out because of “censorship” and “pressure” to disseminate pro-Kremlin material from the company’s news executives who took control in April.