/ HOW THE NEWS IS REPORTED IN RUSSIA, MARCH 2012
How the News is Reported in Russia March 2012 by Andrei Nesterov editorial support by Margaret Godwin-Jones
The two largest state-run television stations in Russia are First Channel and Russia Channel. Most Russians get their news from one of these two stations. SRAS's Andrei Nesterov compiled the following synopsis of how major events were covered by news reports on these two stations. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month. If you would like to request that a story be covered here, inform our editor.
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March, Week 4
New Law Simplifies Registering Political Parties
First Channel stated that a new law adopted by the Duma “opens the road to politics for everybody who wants it,” because from now on, a political party can be registered after collecting only 500 supporters’ signatures. According to First Channel, 70 parties have already applied for registration with the Justice Ministry.
Meanwhile, the new law brought to life some “exotic” political parties, as First Channel put it, such as The Party of Love and The Party of Beer Lovers, First Channel reported. Chief Editor of NG newspaper Konstantin Remchukov said in a First Channel interview that in any case, a politician would need millions of supporters to be able to promote his/her cause, so only the strongest and most striking political parties would be able to stay afloat.
Opposition politician Vladimir Milov said in a First Channel interview that the new law “gives opportunities to young political forces to establish political parties,” while previously “young politicians had to ‘flock together’ around old, unpopular political leaders.”
Russia Channel reported that the new law would help Mikhail Prokhorov in his project of establishing a right-wing political party. Currently, Prokhorov is advertising his project online, seeing Internet users as his target audience.
Boris Nemtsov, the leader of PARNAS, an opposition party, denounced the new law, saying that authorities intend to divide people with opposition agendas, and to prevent them from gaining power in this way.
Russia Channel reported that opposition leader Sergey Udaltsov, who called on rally participants to stay in Pushkin Square until Putin left office, was released by court verdict, which came as a surprise to even Udaltsov himself. Also, Russia Channel stated that the opposition protesters have failed to unite behind a single platform and, as a result, their activity is declining. For example, the leader of the nationalist organization Slavic Union, Dmitry Demushkin, left an opposition rally in Novy Arbat, stating that he has a different agenda.
Meanhile, Sergey Mitrokhin, the leader of Yabloko party, criticized US Ambassador Michael McFaul’s proposal to establish a center for supporting civil society in Russia, funded by the USA. As Mitrokhin stated, “a country’s civil society cannot be established from the outside.”
Russia Channel also reported that on March 17, police in New York brutally suppressed an unauthorized Occupy Wall Street rally – some protesters were hit with truncheons, and police confiscated a video camera from one of the protesters.
In another report, Russia Channel stated that residents of Geneva adopted a new regulation imposing heavy fines on participants of any unauthorized rallies.
Four Russian Regions Outlaw "Homosexual Propaganda"
First Channel stated that “any healthy society should be well protected from perverts, especially when it comes to raising children,” and reported that a new law was passed in the city of St. Petersburg, “on imposing fines for propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality among minors.”
First Channel reported, laws “against homosexuality in propaganda to minors” have also been passed in the cities of Arkhangelsk, Kostroma and Ryazan.
According to First Channel, sexual minority activists have twice picketed in front of the children’s library in Archangelsk, requesting that the law be cancelled. Mikhail Belodedov, a representative for gay and lesbian organizations, said in a First Channel interview that the new law adopted in St. Petersburg revives the notion of “sodomy,” which was used in the Soviet era, while it is better to use the words “homosexuality” and “bisexuality.”
The well-know gay activist Nikolai Alekseev stated that picketing at libraries is arranged with one purpose: after police detain an activist based on the new law, activists will have grounds to appeal the law.
First Channel stated that the opponents of the law count on support from the West, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the new law as violating human rights. The law was also criticized by the Human Rights Watch.
First Channel concluded its report by saying that there has been a different attitude towards homosexuality in Russia and the West, which stems from cultural and historical differences, making it hard to reconcile this issue.
After the Presidential Elections: Street Rallies and Challenges for Putin as Future President
First Channel reported that in the first week after the presidential elections, there were a record number of street rallies in Russia. On election day, March 4, 110,000 people came to the center of Moscow to express their support for Vladimir Putin, and Putin himself also came to the rally to thank his supporters. The next day, supporters of Putin had another rally on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow.
According to First Channel, rallies with several thousand participants celebrating Putin’s victory took place in many Russian cities, such as Saratov, Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Krasnodar, Stavropol, Novosibirsk and Samara.
On March 5, the opposition held a rally in Pushkin Square in Moscow. First Channel reported that the opposition protesters “were not as optimistic as at their previous rallies,” and quoted one of the opposition leaders, Yuri Saprykin, as saying that “we realized on Monday [the day after the elections] that it is not possible to change everything as quickly as we would like."
At the opposition rally in Moscow, Sergey Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front movement, called on his supporters to stay on the square “until Putin leaves.” An hour later, police drove away Udaltsov and several dozen of his supporters who stayed on the square. Armed police carried away those who resisted.
Unauthorized rallies took place on Lubyanskaya Square in Moscow (led by Eduard Limonov), as well as in St. Petersburg. Several hundred protesters were detained by police. First Channel broadcast images of American police dispersing rallies in the USA as a response to the recent criticism on the part of the US Ambassador to Russia.
Meanwhile, several thousand people participated in another opposition rally on March 10 on Novy Arbat Street in Moscow, where Sergey Udaltsov again called on protesters to go to Pushkinskaya Square and stay there after the rally. Udaltsov and his supporters were detained by the police yet again.
Vladimir Putin commented that the opposition “should integrate into the political system and propose positive programs for development.”
Also, in another report, First Channel noted that “Putin’s comeback [to the presidency] is logical,” because “Russia needs to take the next step,” and it is Putin who will take Russia to a new stage of development. The main challenge for Putin is “to establish the image of great Russia,” that is, the underlying idea for the entire nation, First Channel concluded.
On the evening of March 4, Vladimir Putin and incumbent president Dmitry Medvedev arrived at Manezhnaya Square, where Dmitry Medvedev said to a crowd of supporters, “We won, we all need this victory, our country needs it. And we are not going to give this victory away to anyone!” Putin said that the elections were “an important test for us, for the entire people, on political maturity,” adding that people did not allow themselves to be provoked by those wanting “to destroy our statehood.”
The head of Putin’s election staff, Stanislav Govorukhin, told reporters that the elections were “extraordinarily pure.”
Meanwhile, Communist presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov refused to congratulate Putin, saying that “everybody loses in such elections,” and that “we are wasting time, which is needed to improve the situation [in the country].” He also stated that the authorities will be held accountable for their actions.
Intelligence Agencies Expose Assassination Plot on Vladimir Putin
On March 28, national TV channels reported that the secret services in Ukraine and Russia exposed an assassination plot targeting Vladimir Putin. The plotters allegedly planned to plant landmines on the route of Vladimir Putin’s motorcade shortly after the presidential elections.
On January 6, a device exploded in the apartment they rented in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, killing one and wounding another alleged terrorist. Ukrainian intelligence agencies informed their Russian counterparts that the explosive had been made in preparation for an assassination attempt.
The surviving member of the group told police that he and his companion arrived in Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates. He stated that they had instructions from representatives of the Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov “to make diversions at factories in Moscow,” and later, “to attempt to assassinate Putin.”
There was a third member of the group, who at one point lived in London. He acted as a messenger and trainer for the other two members. Some explosives were already brought to Moscow and stored near Kutuzovsky Prospect, a place which Putin frequently passes by car.
Putin himself commented on the news in a TV interview, stating that he does not intend to strengthen his security further, and that he is not afraid. “It would be impossible to live while being scared all the time. They should be scared of us.”
Russia channel quoted an FSB officer as saying that if the plan had worked, the explosion’s capacity would have been “sufficient to destroy a truck.”
Later, Russian law enforcement requested that their Ukrainian counterparts extradite the members of the group to Russia.