Inasmuch as TIME is allowed to anoint their own Person of the Year, I thought that this blog would do so as well, for what it’s worth. So without further ado, the 2007 RA Blog Person of the Year is…. The Russian Journalist. These intrepid individuals fight tirelessly against incredible odds every day, unhindered by one of the most hostile official environments in the world which has sought to criminalize their craft, and often risking their lives to accomplish their thankless yet vital work.
They work with the heavy burden of knowing that their ranks are ever thinning, and that their support in the international community is undercut every day by the choices of some media empires that to currying favor with the state instead of reporting the news.If it weren’t challenging enough for Russian journalists to survive and serve, the dramatic collapse of budgets for hard news reporters and the spate of firings which has gutted the industry and driven talented people into the state propaganda machine or worse, into tabloid celebrity reporting, the work of an investigative journalist is one of passion and faith. They often work alone and without resources or protection against constant threats, and are opposed by a formidable well oiled political machine that has its reputation laundered by the best corrupt Western politicians that money can buy.I know these people, and I knew some that are already gone. And while I support TIME’s decision to name Vladimir Putin for the official selection, as a work of journalism, the quality of the article written demonstrates just how big the gap has grown between Western perceptions of Russia and reality. Those who try to address this gap and bring us quality information from inside Russia risk not only their lives, but also those of their families. For they find themselves working at a moment in Russian history when those in control have never been more uncertain of themselves, and therefore never more unpredictable.Furthermore, things appear to be getting worse for these heroes. Kremlin insiders tell me that there is a new “information policy” presently being enforced which is far more strict that the previous securitiziation policy announced by Putin at the beginning of his reign. This new policy, which has already seen heads roll for many publications at the editorial levels in Moscow, represents an even greater threat to our honorees.In this forthcoming year, we all need to pray for the people that TIME forgot.