Putin Strikes Again
Jamey Gambrell writes in the New York Review of Books:
Russian journalists have suffered crippling attacks in recent years, as Vladimir Putin pursues his policy of strengthening the “vertical” dimension of his administration’s “power pyramid.” The Kremlin’s geometrical terminology means enforcing, from the top down, an ideology intended to align all sectors of Russia’s “managed democracy” (another key phrase of the Putin era) into tidy, clearly demarcated, easily controlled zones of activity and influence. No strong minority views, no awkward revelations in the press are to mar the sleek façades of the state. The messy disarray normally associated with functioning democracy—the irritating criticism, noisy opposition, and inconvenient news uncovered by investigative reporters (what Russians proudly called glasnost a mere seventeen years ago)—has been summarily and sometimes harshly dealt with.
The techniques range from mild bureaucratic harassment of news organizations to physical attacks on individual journalists. The body count among Russian reporters is now thirteen murders in the line of duty since Putin has been in power. In each case the reporter was investigating or had published stories critical of government or business officials. No one has been convicted of these killings, even in the rare instances when the police have apprehended suspects. The murder last October of the brave, rash Anna Politkovskaya, about whom Robert Cottrell wrote eloquently in these pages recently, got worldwide attention but others are little known abroad. The Committee to Protect Journalists found in 2006 that Russia was the third most deadly country in the world for reporters.