A Russian primer on making journalists irrelevant


Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya's grave

In Russia today, journalists are murdered like Anna Politkovskaya, beaten like Oleg Kashin and intimidated like me, but — as terrible as this will sound — that is not the real problem. The real problem is that journalists are ignored. The risks they take in challenging Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchy have ceased to have meaning. One is valued only for telling a harmless story, an amusing anecdote that can exist, side by side, with ad space.

Russian journalist Valery Panyushkin writes in the New York Times about how the government makes its displeasure known to journalists—your licence plate is removed from your car, and after that, any number of fates may await—and wonders what may have been the trigger for him. But it’s the conclusion here, of the journey from typed samizdat to irrelevance, that’s chilling. When there’s no media freedom, it becomes of paramount importance. When we have all the freedoms, as we do here, investigative journalism is threatened because it’s not commercially valuable, or people’s lives aren’t bad enough to make them care (look, cats on keyboards!).

Russia has managed though to both curtail press freedom and yet still make journalism irrelevant.

Congrats, I think?