The St. Petersburg Times has an interesting new article picking up where the New York Times left off with the amusing/frightening story of the Kremlin’s digital censorship of television commentator Mikhail Delyagin. Perhaps the prize line of the piece: “Senior government officials deny the existence of a stop list, saying that people hostile to the Kremlin do not appear on TV simply because their views are not newsworthy.” Wow. In a still frame from video, the incomplete digital erasure of a Putin critic named Mikhail G. Delyagin from an episode of the program “The People Want to Know” can be seen. Mr. Delyagin’s leg and hand remain visible, to the right of the man holding the microphone. (Photo: ATV/New York Times)
Delyagin, it turned out, has for some time resided on the so-called stop list, a roster of political opponents and other critics of the government who have been barred from TV news and political talk shows by the Kremlin.The stop list is, as Delyagin put it, “an excellent way to stifle dissent.”It is also a striking indication of how Putin has increasingly relied on the Kremlin-controlled TV networks to consolidate power, especially in recent elections.Opponents who were on TV a year or two ago all but vanished during the campaigns, as Putin won a parliamentary landslide for his party and then installed his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, as his successor. Putin is now prime minister, but is still widely considered Russia’s leader.Onetime Putin allies like Mikhail Kasyanov, his former prime minister, and Andrei Illarionov, his former chief economic adviser, disappeared from view. Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and leader of the Other Russia opposition coalition, was banned, as were members of liberal parties.Even the Communist Party, the only remaining opposition party in the Duma, has said that its leaders are kept off TV.And it is not just politicians. Televizor, a rock group whose name means TV set, had its booking on a St. Petersburg station canceled in April, after its members took part in an Other Russia demonstration.When some actors cracked a few mild jokes about Putin and Medvedev at Russia’s equivalent of the Academy Awards in March, they were expunged from the telecast.Indeed, political humor in general has been exiled from TV. One of the nation’s most popular satirists, Viktor Shenderovich, once had a show that featured puppet caricatures of Russian leaders, including Putin. It was canceled in Putin’s first term, and Shenderovich has been all but barred from TV.Senior government officials deny the existence of a stop list, saying that people hostile to the Kremlin do not appear on TV simply because their views are not newsworthy.