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Russian media: True, we're 'not free' - but we're not Zimbabwe.

Russian media experts and journalists say Freedom House's annual press freedom survey doesn't acknowledge the rise of independent media outlets and social media, which are broadening the landscape.

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The New York-based human rights watchdog Freedom House released its annual survey of press freedom in almost 200 countries today. At first blush it may not seem surprising that Russia, which will inaugurate Vladimir Putin for his third presidential term on May 7, remains firmly in the "Not Free" category of nations, holding down a dismal 172nd place, together with Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan, just one slot higher than last year's rating.

But this year, at least, many Russian media experts and journalists say that Freedom House makes some good points, but its judgement is too monochromatic and has failed to note sweeping changes – often happening below the West's radar screen – that are broadening out Russia's media spectrum, creating new and independent sources of information that the public can access.

The analytical reports issued by Freedom House, which is 80 percent funded by the US government, are typically received by Russian officialdom with an angry scoff and an occasional diatribe on Western double-standards. In his final interview as Russian president last week, Dmitry Medvedev flatly denied there is any state censorship of the media in Russia.

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