Despite Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees the freedom of the mass media and the prohibits censorship, the 2014 Reporters without Borders Freedom Index ranks the Russian Federation 148th out of 180 states around the globe (2014).
The media source Pravda, translated as “truth” in English, was founded in the
early 20th century and represented the voice of the official Communist party of
Russia during Soviet times. When Yeltsin opened the State to private sector
infiltration and foreign investment after the collapse of the Soviet Union,
Pravda was purchased by foreign private sector owners based out of Greece. The
Communist Party of the Russian Federation eventually took ownership of the paper
in 1997, and it should be noted that the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation, while the second most represented political party in parliament, is
dwarfed by Putin’s United Russia. Reviewing the Pravda on-line newspaper, the
articles are very critical of the Capitalist West, which is expected due to the
opposing ideologies involved when viewing world political events, but most
articles did not exactly slam or criticize the Russian government very often.
The Pravda newspaper seemed very pro-Crimea, which would represent
nationalism-Patriotism or pro-Russian views, and seemed to support the
aggressive decision by the Russian Government. The news source even ran an
article that painted Gazprom, “the state-controlled natural gas company”
(Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 358), in a rather positive light. Overall, the
Pravda website contained articles that reflected the political position of its
owner party, but no articles too critical of the state, nor any articles as
openly slanderous or as politically biased as the main media outlets in the
RIA Novosti is an example of state controlled media in the post-Soviet
Russian Federation era. The organization has origins as “the Soviet Information
Bureau, founded in 1941 to cover World World II” (Tétrault-Farber, 2013). It is
easy enough to distinguish that RIA Novosti is state operated because the
majority of content on their website is either reporting events that the state
has little control over, usually non-political in nature, or reporting political
events that illustrate state success, such as the positive news report that
“Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed an agreement on the creation of the
Eurasian Economic Union” (Klimentyev, 2014). There was very little mention of
the Ukraine or the Crimea situation compared to other pro-Russian reports, and
the articles that did focus on the political situation occurring in the Crimea
seemed to paint the Russian opposition in a similar light as the U.S. portrays
resistance in Iraq or Afghanistan. As would be expected with a state operated
media source, there was an article pointing out that “the popularity of Russian
President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev among Russians
continues to grow” (Nikolskyi, 2014). Interestingly enough, President Putin
recently “issued a decree ordering the liquidation of RIA Novosti, the massive
state-owned news agency, and mandated the creation of a new global news agency
to be headed by an aggressively pro-Kremlin television host” (Tétrault-Farber,
Gabrielle, 2013). While this presidential decree is aimed to merge existing
state-run media agencies into a new state-operated consolidated media outlet,
the move is viewed by the west as a tightening of Russian state control over
free media within the Russian state.
Both media outlets, Pravda and RIA Novosti, operated through the Soviet era
and beyond into the post-Soviet era. Obviously, RIA Novosti, being state-owned,
would have no problems operating under Soviet conditions, as it clearly was the
voice of the state and operating no differently than it is now (only under
different political structures and circumstance). In the case of Pravda, which
also operated through the Soviet era, it would really depend on the ownership of
the media organization. I highly doubt that foreign private sector ownership of
a media outlet would have been allowed under the Soviet state.
Federatsii, K. R. (1993). Constitution of the Russian Federation. Rossiyskaya
Gazeta, (237), 10003000-01.
Klimentyev, Michael. 2014. Eurasian Economic Union to Become Economic Power
West Has to Reckon With – Lawmaker. Ria Novosti, May 30, 2014. Accessed on May
Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph. 2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics,
6th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
Nikolskyi, Aleksey. 2014. Public Approval for Putin, Medvedev Continues to
Grow – Survey. Ria Novosti, May 30, 2014. Accessed on May 29, 2014.
Reporters without Borders. 2014. World Press Freedom Index 2014. Reporters
without Borders Website. Accessed on May 29, 2014.
Tétrault-Farber, Gabrielle. 2013. Putin Shuts State News Agency RIA Novosti.
Moscow Times, December 10, 2013. Accessed on May 29, 2014.