Parallel worlds By Grigory Pasko, journalist Sometimes I watch Russian television. In prime time, they show me stories about events in the world – mainly about how bad things are OVER THERE, and about events in Russia. The main events in Russia: the voluntary encloisterment of inhabitants of Penza Oblast under the ground; the training of dogs to search for narcotics; the cleanup of roads and houses from the winter mud and dust… Before this, naturally, two requisite stories: one – about Vladimir Putin, the second – about Dmitry Medvedev. That’s it. There don’t seem to be any other events in this huge country. Television personality Vladimir Pozner was a prominent apologist for the Soviet regime on American television during the cold war (photo courtesy of www.liplus.ru)
Then I go out into the city (to the store, to the passport table, to the post office, to the savings bank, to the doctor, to a business meeting), and I see an entirely different life. Queues, bribes, the boorishness of state officials, dirt on the streets, outrageous prices, the angry faces of people…Russian television and the life around me – these are parallel worlds. They almost never intersect in any way whatsoever.It was always interesting to me: do those who work in television ever travel on the metro? Do they even know about the existence of another, REAL, life in the country?It turns out that some of them do. For example, the famous television presenter Vladimir Pozner – president of the Academy of Russian Television. Recently he declared… about the lack of freedom of speech in the Russian mass media. By which he immediately evoked no small number of caustic replies to his address, such as “Pozner has finally woken up”. What Pozner said, and I quote, was: “The law on the mass information media in our country is not being carried out in the main thing: I assert that in our television, and indeed not only on television, freedom of speech does not exist”. In Pozner’s words, during the time of the parliamentary and presidential elections “there were things that were absolutely prohibited: you can’t talk about this, you can’t show that, you can’t invite such a person”. “The role of a journalist – is to call things by their names, but under pressure from the outside, to do this isn’t real”, declared the moderator of an analytic program of the first channel.Indeed, the man seems to have just woken up. You mean he hadn’t noticed the strangling of freedom of speech in the country earlier? Why didn’t he speak before about how the elections in the country – are sheer fiction? Didn’t he see? Didn’t he realize? I think Mr. Pozner was keeping his mouth shut out because that just seemed advantageous at the time. Apparently, now the television anchorman has all of a sudden for some reason decided that the new president will pay attention to the fact that there’s no freedom of speech in the country. Don’t worry, Mr. Pozner, he won’t. That’s not why they appointed Medvedev to the post of the new president, so he’d change something in the Putin system of coordinates.The best news is no news? (photo by Grigory Pasko)From other reports in the mass media, bringing attention were two somewhat similar stories. One – about how the investigation in the case of the assassination of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova has been stopped in connection with the expiration of time. The second – about how the case of the attempt on the life of St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matvienko has made it to trial.There’s no way that Starovoitova and Matvienko can even be mentioned in a single breath. The first – a person of principle and of honesty, a true democrat, who enjoyed the unconditional respect of a huge quantity of people. The second – a typical Soviet party functionary, changing color appropriately to adapt to any power in the country.If the investigative organs weren’t able to find those who had put out the contract for Starovoitova’s murder, then either they’re bungling idiots (in which case they need to be ousted from the organs), or they were ordered not to solve this murder. But in that case the shadow falls on the power itself.And as concerns Matvienko, it sure smells like nothing more than some hackneyed PR for this official.That’s the kind of thoughts that come to your head when you hear these two similar news stories from the realm of investigations.Another report was widely discussed in the Russian internet, but not on the television channels of Russia. This was a report about how the journalist Yelena Tregubova had obtained political asylum in England.Having received asylum in Great Britain, Tregubova declared that she is experiencing huge relief and considers that on the part of the British government this was a brave step.By the way, one of the first news sources to report that Tregubova had left Russia was this very blog. Tregubova is a former journalist of the “Kremlin pool”, the author of the books «Tales of a Kremlin Digger» (2003) and «Farewell of the Kremlin Digger» (2004), which have been translated into several European languages. «Tales» came out in Italy as I mutanti del Cremlino (2005) and in Germany as Die Mutanten des Kremls [both titles translate as “The Kremlin Mutants”—Trans.] in 2006.In February 2004 an attempt was made on Tregubova’s life – a bomb exploded under the door of her apartment. The journalist did not suffer any harm.Of course, it’s gratifying that Great Britain reacted as it did to Yelena’s request concerning political asylum. This – is a recognition of the fact that there is no democracy in Russia, that they can kill you for truthful journalism in Russia. And they do.Those who write about the anchorites in Penza, or doped-up dogs, or – positively – about Putin with Medvedev – these, the power isn’t going to kill. In the crosshairs are only undesirable journalists.According to the data of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Russian journalists have received political asylum abroad in the past two years. In February of this year, Ukraine granted refugee status to the Russian journalist Alexander Kosvintsev, who had spoken out against Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev. Last year, asylum in the USA was obtained by the Russian journalists Fatima Tlisova and Yuri Bagrov, who had worked in the North Caucasus. I know several other journalists who have left the country or who would like to leave.Russia – is a comfortless country for honest journalists. Those who remain in it and write the truth can recall the verses of Iosif Brodsky, who wrote: “Pressing with the cheek against an indifferent fatherland…” Would that it were just indifferent! In fact, it is prejudicial and malicious, even vindictive.It is those very journalists who have not left who are writing the truth about the country. They live in their country, and not in that parallel world that can be seen on the screens of state Russian television.