Staunton, October 2 – There are many ways to destroy media freedom, but members of the Russian Duma have come up with a new one that may prove far more insidious than anyone may now imagine: They are calling for legislation that would preclude media outlets from carrying stories about subjects not defined as part of their focus.
If this measure were to be adopted, sports magazines couldn’t cover political issues, and religious magazines couldn’t have stories about anything but religion, bans that would seriously restrict coverage of many issues and render a large number of Russian media outlets distinctly less interesting than they are now.
When media outlets are given their licenses, Vadim Dengin, an LDPR deputy says, they define the focus of their coverage, but many of them then cover whatever they want to. As a result, he says, Russian media law should be amended so that they cannot do so.
Dengin said that he “considers it abnormal in an era of information war when a massed information attack on the country is going on that people who specialize on entertainment media” don’t keep to their stated purpose but act as social-political media are supposed to do and cover broader topics.
Not surprisingly, journalists said that such an approach would not work very well because no media outlet can define with exactitude what it will cover. One of them with whom Znak.com spoke, Oleg Kashin, said he assumes that any such law, if adopted, would be applied in a highly selective and repressive manner.
Thus, Kashin suggested, the authorities would use it only if they didn’t like a particular article. For example, he said, if “Esquire” were to publish something critical of the powers that be, then “the government would remember that this is a journal about male fashion and not a social-political one.”
In speaking about his proposal, the LDPR deputy made reference to Hearst Shkulev Media, which publishes Elle, Maxim, Psychologies, Schastlivyye Roditeli, and Woman’s Day, likely because its head had given an interview to Slon.ru in which he criticized Dengin himself.
Lest anyone think that the Russian parliament will ignore such a proposal, it is worth pointing out that Deputy Dengin was one of the co-authors of the law prohibiting foreigners from owning more than 20 percent of the capital of Russian media, a law that was adopted by the Duma on third reading on September 26.