Saturday, May 31, 2014

Analyzing Russian Media: Pravda and RIA Novosti

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 United States.

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 29, 2014.

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.

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