Russian Language Blog

Information Equals Power? Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Culture, History, News, Russian life, Soviet Union

It was reported a while ago in the Business Insider that in America, six corporations control about 90 percent of everything Americans read, watch, and listen to. The news they get from television, radio, and print all come through these six corporation. Even movies and music that they love pass through the six giants. These corporations, while not owned by the government, are owned by shareholders. Many of the majority shareholders definitely have a political bias which shape the opinions they present, however, they are not owned by the government. This got me thinking about what the situation looks like in Russia. Many would assume, given the nature of the government and its history, that the government owns or controls it all. This is what I hope to find out.

In October of 2014, President Putin signed a bill that, by the year 2017, would limit the amount of media assets that could be owned by foreigners to 20 percent. The author of the bill, lawmaker Vadim Dengin, was quoted as saying, “We understand very well that those that own information own the world.” It makes sense then that they would like Russians to keep control of Russian media – though only select Russians.

In an article in November of 2014, the BBC stated that two of Russia’s three main federal television channels were run directly by the Kremlin or companies with close ties to it. Channel One and Russia One were directly controlled by the government. NTV, the third channel, is owned by Gazprom – the state-controlled energy company. Given that a majority of Russia people get their news from the television, you can see that news which is “fair and balanced” is not likely to be seen nor heard. During the last year or so, many independent media outlets that reported the truth, whether in print, radio, or television, have been closed, blocked, or redirected. This has set a precedent going forward – “If we wish to remain in business, we will not tell the whole truth, but rather some version of it.”

Pro-Kremlin companies and figures have bought out and restructured many news organizations that tended to offer opinions and report stories that painted the government in a more truthful light. On many occasions, reporters that were brave enough to report in-depth stories at these organizations about corruption, rights abuses, or organized crime, themselves became sources of news because they were killed or attacked. Media freedom watchdogs have long criticized the Russian government for its actions. Even ex-FSB members that were critical of Putin and the Kremlin, such as Alexander Litvinenko, were not safe. He was the first recorded person killed by polonium 210 induced acute radiation syndrome in 2006 while living in London – all eyes point to the Kremlin as the perpetrator. Also, since 1993 there have been hundreds of disappearances and murders of Russian journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in 2006.

Even the internet, which in so many countries is largely unfiltered, is becoming more and more restricted in Russia. The Russian government has passed laws that allow them the legal means to block websites “without explanation” that are not pro-Russia. The government can also demand access to user’s information on any website. Bloggers are also required to register with Roskomnadzor, a federal executive body responsible for media control and supervision.

There was so much information found that I could fill twenty blogs with it. It appears that in Russia, the state owns or controls most of the media and it will likely continue to tighten its grip. You can argue that there is no real “freedom of the press” in any country, but in some countries, its easier to prove than others. It is my sincere opinion that ALL governments, including the world’s major religions, will do whatever is necessary to effect change and maintain some form of control over their masses. They could likely all be found guilty of distorting the truth, propagandizing, starting wars in the name of freedom or whatever adjective you choose, and killing civilians when necessary. In the end, it may be like Mr. Dengin stated, “those that own the information own the world.”

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u