Aleksei Simonov: Free media exist in our country only in a small number of “special cases”

posted 20 Nov 2017, 07:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Nov 2017, 07:50 ]

12 November 2017 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Voice of America

Investigative journalism does exist in today’s Russia, according to Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. ‘But’ he adds, ‘it’s another matter that those who wish to engage in investigations far outnumber those who wish to publish them. Unfortunately that is the situation for the time being.’

In an interview with a correspondent from the Russian service of the Voice of America, Aleksei Simonov said that the Glasnost Defence Foundation, which he heads, has conducted more than thirty schools on investigative journalism across Russia, including in St Petersburg. 'In my view’ continued Simonov ‘interest in investigative journalism is an important aspect of interest in journalism in general. But there’s a problem with the publication of the results of investigations – because there are fewer and fewer of those who want to answer for such publications, defend them, and struggle for the truth.’

The president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation also observed that investigative journalism in Russia is a very dangerous affair. ‘In a normal country an individual, carrying out their professional work, feels relatively protected. And if their profession is investigation, they feel themselves relatively well protected. This is because relations between individuals are regulated with the help of laws and not by custom, tradition, or directives from above’ he argued.

In October there were rumours that Evgeny Prigozhin had expressed interest in buying and the newspaper Delovoi Peterburg. This coincided with a series of investigative articles by Denis Korotkov on the Fontanka site (after which the journalist began to receive a large number of anonymous threats, and his St Petersburg address was published on social networking sites). Incidentally, talk of a potential sale was soon denied both by Prigozhin and by the directors of the internet-site.

‘I think that it was simply a desire to frighten the young people at Fontanka and, at the same time, to have a bit of fun’ said Aleksei Simonov.

However, you can find other views in the St Petersburg media world. For example, there are those who remind us that conversations about the sale of the newspaper Vedemosti and the RBK holding were reported some time before these deals took place, and that the initial information leak was intended to test the state of public opinion regarding a potential change of direction by these media outlets.

Commenting on the situation regarding the Russian print and electronic media, Aleksei Simonov emphasized that ‘free media only exist as a small number of “special cases.” And even these are becoming fewer and fewer: “It’s true, I don’t have the feeling that today, as elections approach, the press is again being cleaned out. Rather it’s being purged in a quite different way – not by removing or buying up publications, but by creating an atmosphere of distrust of the media. The creation of such an atmosphere is not something new, and it’s being done extremely effectively.”

Translated by Mary McAuley