After Russian coal mine disaster, questions about TV censorship
Miner protests forced the government to grapple with a Russian coal mine disaster in western Siberia, say critics. But the protests were ignored by the country's dominant government-owned and government-linked TV networks.
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"What does the television viewer know about the events in Mezhdurechensk?" the independent Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta asked in toughly-worded editorial. "He knows that at the Raspadskaya mine two explosions occurred... But It is very probable that the television viewer has heard nothing about the blocking of the railroad by the miners... or if he has heard, then he has heard only about some supposedly organized actions of criminals.”Skip to next paragraph
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The editorial concluded: "The majority of Russians... do not have full information about the central event of the week. They cannot draw independent and objective conclusions" as a result.
A survey released this week by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Study Center reported that TV is the primary new source for more than two-thirds of Russians. Just 20 percent of respondents said they read newspapers and magazines, 15 percent used the Internet and 12 percent listened to the radio.
With the partial exception of the tiny independent Ren TV network "There is no objective information about miners' working conditions or protest moods on national TV," says Mikhail Melnikov at the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, a Moscow-based monitoring group. "It's clear that this is done to lower protest moods and pretend that the authorities and mine owners have things under control... but there are still a few other sources, and people who want to find information can still do so."
Young, restless, better informed
Boris Kagarlitsky, a longtime labor activist and director of the independent Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, argues that Soviet-style control of TV news is not working as the Kremlin intends.
"I think the media blackout [on Mezhdurechensk events] has failed miserably, and that's why Putin had to rush to the scene," Mr. Kagarlitsky says. "Control of TV news is still effective with older, loyal people, but the more active, youthful part of the population gets more of its news from other sources. Information spreads through the old-fashioned route of rumors, and is greatly magnified by the Internet. You can't stop that.... It's clear that the authorities are really afraid of civil unrest and, ironically, their overreactions are actually provoking more unrest."
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