Russia’s Journalism Crisis

morari1219.jpgToday I received an email from Adam Federman, who just published a very thought provoking article in the Columbia Journalism Review taking a look the evolution of print media in Russia since the fall of communism to the rise of Putinism.  I think that this one well worth your time reading, because of instead of focusing only on the violence against journalists or the ultimate national tragedy as symbolized by Anna Politkovskaya – which of course is very important but covered exhaustively elsehwere – Federman focuses on the remaining mechanisms and political dynamics for freedom of press and the conditions in which genuinely good investigative journalism can still occur in today’s harshly repressive media environment in Russia.

While I found the discussion and interviews about Russia’s journalismgolden age, moving to pay for play, moving to state funding doled outto loyal publications very interesting, I was struck by the opening ofthe article, which provides a miniature profile of the maverickpublication The New Times, and the story of its editor Ilya Barabanov and his wife and former reporter Natalia Morari.  We’ve blogged pretty extensively here about Morari (Morar – that’s her in the photo), her forced exile, and probably the most compelling investigative story she unearthed – the possible connection between Austria’s Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB) and the murder of central banker Andrei Kozlov.  How have we not seen more reporting on that one?

But what got to me in this article is very peculiar and very strange. Federman writes that he met with Barabanov in Moscow’s unabashedlycheesy TGI Friday’s, where several years ago I first met with the youngand unassuming human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who had beenintroduced to me by Anna Politkovskaya.  I recall feeling somewhatembarrassed as I and my good friend and translator dived into a pile ofSouthern-style BBQ ribs like boorish Canadians right when Markelovshowed up, and recall how amazed I was that such a slight, young,modest and vulnerable man was participating in the amazingly brave kindof work that he was doing.  As you all know, the one-year anniversary has just recently passed of Markelov’s tragic murder, and of course a few years beforehand, the person that introduced him to me is also gone.  But it’s these small details in my memory that makes it so heartbreaking, and something much larger than just pundits throwing names back and forth in their attacks.

Anyways, I recommend checking out Federman’s article for a thoughtful review of where Russian journalism is today, and where it might be able to guide the country in the future.