The Rewards of Violence Against Journalists

cpj100109.jpgI think it says quite a lot about the freedom of press situation in Russia when a reporter is just as likely to face violence and threats for reporting about the past as they are for muckraking some contemporary politician for corruption, or another breaking news issue.  That’s what is happening to the former dissident and political prisoner Alexander Podrabinek, who is getting threats of physical violence and scary Nashi-organized protests outside his apartment door (not the first time he’s been targeted).  According to a story in the AP, Podrabinek provoked the ire of the nationalists when he criticized their campaign to have a restaurant change its name from “Anti-Soviet” to something more patriotic. 

The article quotes human rights leader Lev Ponomarev (who, naturally, has also suffered beatings at the hands of likely the same groups threatening Podrabinek):  “The Russian state has developed an alarming pattern of using careerist Russian youths in Nashi, which is controlled by United Russia, to attack its enemies. (…) The creeping rehabilitation of Stalin is designed to pave the way for the return of Putin as an autocratic leader.

Let’s step back and just consider this for a moment.  The Nashi is astate created and state funded group, which although one steppedremoved from being an official state actor, the Kremlin is responsiblefor its actions.  Is it unfair to say that the current Russiangovernment is applying its resources to fund and encourage violenceagainst journalists?  This kind of conduct seems to clash with theillusions most nations are willing to go along with, framed by DmitryMedvedev’s pleasant speech at the United Nations, or Vladimir Putin’s recent cooing to international investors about partnerships and property rights.

I don’t even think this disconnect between the civil rights situationand the rhetoric of responsible statehood is really even to blame onthe Russian leadership at this point – the international community isblithely going along with it all, so who wouldn’t keep the status quo? European indifference and energy contracts and American policy resetshave rewarded some of the worst behavior. For those of you out therewho haven’t yet read the big CPJ report Anatomy of Injustice, especially the section Roadmap for the International Community – I recommend before we all think on it.