Freedom of Expression without Freedom of the Press

May 23, 2011, 8:48 p.m.

Freedom of Expression without Freedom of the Press by Maria Lipman analyzes the current atmosphere of the media in Russia.  While there is significant push back on journalists and a free media, the Russian media is alive and flourishing.  A key element Lipman points out is that journalists can write articles revealing corruption and improper actions, but as long as they do not encroach on powerful interests they are typically left alone.  The government uses a variety of means to encourage journalists to provide self censorship. While the Russian government may not be directly responsible for the death of journalists, like Anna Politkovskaya, their policies and the environment of lawlessness that exist facilitates their occurrence.  As the paper states rarely have any killings of journalists been properly investigated or prosecuted.  There is a prevalence of public indifference and cynicism within Russia to announcements of government corruption or illegal business deals.  The populace has come to expect that these things will occur reducing the market for a liberal and dissenting media.  

If the killing and harassment of journalists is the most obvious evidence of serious problems with press freedom in Russia, public indifference and cynicism aggravate the situation further. Another major constraint on media freedom is the Kremlin’s tight control over politics, policy making, and national television. In this environment, the existing independent media remain irrelevant as tools of public accountability.

Journalists encroaching on powerful interests are not the only victims; the same method has also been used to settle scores with rivals in business, banking, and occasionally in local politics. In a system where clout and money easily override the law, contractors as well as the perpetrators of killings have a good chance of getting away with their crimes. When neither money nor clout are involved, the investigation’s incompetence may be a determining factor. In a deeply corrupt system, there is little incentive for honest professional effort and the quality of criminal probes is notoriously low.

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