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GQ’s Self-Censorship over Russia’s 1999 Bombings

Scott Anderson is a pretty accomplished journalist and author.  You can read some of his stuff here and here, and read a profile here.  So why, after he spent months researching and writing an article on Russia entitled “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power,” would the magazine that commissioned the piece work so hard to bury it and prevent its distribution to Russia and the internet?  That’s exactly what has happened with GQ, as observers speculate that Anderson’s questioning of the official story on the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow has caused the corporate brass to go running toward self-censorship to avoid risking their publishing business in a major market.

In our opinion, this kind of conduct by a media outlet poses just as much of a threat to the freedom of the press and freedom of speech as do death threats, government interference, or even shootings.  We’ve seen self-censorship in action in Guatemala, in Central Asia, and various African countries, where a newspaper simply can’t afford to publish certain information as it would result in a total advertising boycott, endless regulatory inspections, or crippling frivolous lawsuits.  The fact that GQ has buried this article is a testament to how much control the Kremlin wields over the civil bureaucracy (such as taxes, fire safety, etc.) to use these offices as blunt weapons.

We’re grateful to reader A.M. for bringing this NPR article about GQ’s Russia experience  to our attention.  Please, please, please, can someone dig up the text of Anderson’s article and get it on the internet?  If not, you will have to wait until next week for me to do it when I get home.  Excerpts from NPR after the cut.

The idea that information canbe sequestered at a time when people can communicate instantly acrossoceans and continents may seem quaint. But in this instance, Conde Nastsought, against technology, logic and the thrust of its own article, toshow deference in the presence of power.

Lawyers, executives and editors at Conde Nast and GQdid not respond to repeated requests for comment this week, and aspokesman ultimately declined on their behalf. But NPR has spoken toseveral people knowledgeable about the handling of Anderson’s piece. Noissues have been raised to date about the article’s accuracy.