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Auto-censorship Threatens Freedom Of Expression

President Medvedev may have made a rather embarrassing show of things at his damp squib of a press conference on Wednesday.  Journalists present didn’t seem to feel any more optimistic about their performance.  Yevgenia Albats, editor in chief of the independent Novoye vremya, (The New Times), apparently called the event ‘shameful for Russian journalism’, after she was denied the opportunity to ask a question.  Reuters has a worrying report on the increase in auto-censorship the media is witnessing in the run up to the election.  Here’s an extract: 

Self-censorship today in Russia is at an all-time high,” said high-profile TV host Vladimir Pozner, who began in the business when Soviet censors used to decide what subjects he and other journalists were allowed to report.

Veteran reporters, who grasped media freedoms as the Soviet Union collapsed two decades ago, say a generation of younger journalists who came of age in Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency accept an unspoken set of Kremlin rules on what cannot be shown on state and privately owned stations.

“The closer you get to the elections the worse it gets.There are fewer and fewer topics you can cover; more and morebans,” said Ksenia Turkova, a former news presenter at Russia’ssixth channel, Ren-TV, which is owned by an ally of PrimeMinister Putin.

Russia’s leading nationwide news channels all came eitherdirectly or indirectly under state ownership during Putin’spresidency and reporters at the stations say they risk beingsummarily sacked if they break the rules.

“You never knew when you’re going to step on a mine. Peoplehave become afraid to even ask whether they can air a subject ornot,” said Turkova, who now works in radio. Accumulatedtransgressions cost her her job last year.

[…]

When one of Russia’s top television reporters, LeonidParfyonov, was awarded the nation’s highest TV journalism honourin December, the former NTV presenter chose to speak out.

“Journalists are not journalists at all but bureaucrats,obeying a logic of service and submission,” Parfyonov, who nowproduces sardonic historical documentaries shown on statetelevision, told TV executives at the black-tie event.

No state channel broadcast his criticism.

Read on here.