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RA on Russia’s Internet Censorship

Robert Amsterdam is quoted today in a story by Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

Robert Amsterdam, an attorney on jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s international defense team and the author of an influential blog on Russian affairs, says the emerging trend toward greater state control reflects an entrenched Kremlin view that managing the media is an important aspect of defending national security.

“This is all going in one direction,” Amsterdam says of the emerging Kremlin strategy. “One of the things I don’t think any of us understand well enough is the extent to which the Russians view this as part of their security — the securitization of media. And this comes under this whole format of seeing free communications as somehow being a security threat. My view is that they have been late jumping on the Internet bandwagon and they are going to continue this under [President-elect] Medvedev. At least that is how it appears.” (…)Some Russia watchers say the Kremlin isn’t interested in Chinese-style controls. Amsterdam points out that Russia’s media control strategy — which allows for opposition newspapers like “Novaya gazeta” and radio stations like Ekho Moskvy — is more sophisticated than that.”You’re missing the boat if you don’t think they can control it,” Amsterdam says. “What we need to understand is that they are not trying to, and don’t have to control 100 percent of it. One of the things that the survival of ‘Novaya gazeta’ and [radio station] Ekho Moskvy shows is that they are very happy for liberals to talk to liberals. They just don’t want liberals talking to anybody else.”Amsterdam adds that a combination of intimidation, selective use of libel laws, cooptation, and other means has been very effective in controlling the print and broadcast media. (…)”The attack on the Internet can be this subtle incremental attack,” Amsterdam says “Let’s be clear, it’s multidimensional. Look what they have done to the regular press. Look what they have done to television. They have been so successful with a mixture of cooptation, which is having rich friends buy assets, with the incremental intimidation of self-censorship which is done very well, that they probably don’t feel that they have to [control it entirely].”