Living in Constant Danger – Journalism in Russia

by Tamara Moumna

The daily work of Journalists in the Russian Federation can be very risky, even life-threatening. Thinking about the life of a journalist in a democratic country, what image comes to your mind? A person interviewing, researching and writing stories for the news media. Freedom of press in the European Union is seen to be something very regular, a fundamental and universal human right – untouchable. Sadly, in Russia this is very far from being the case.

Censorship is a huge issue in Russia, undermining the universal human right of expressing your own opinion publically. Evgeniya Zeena, a former Journalist in Russia and the Soviet Union, explained the situation to us in a lecture on the issue of Human Rights in Journalism in the Russian Federation. She stated that “The first price for a Russian Journalist is the death sentence; the second prize is 25 years in prison.” This shocking statement describes the procedures by the government that have come to be the sad reality as soon as criticism is expressed. Journalists are followed, arrested and beaten up by secret services and the police. In February alone there have been 5 attacks of harassment on Journalists in front of their work places, homes and in the open street.

Zeena herself left the country after an attack for an interview in the Netherlands, if she had returned she probably would have been killed or send to prison. Many in similar positions carry their injuries with them for a long time. Sometimes the Journalists are succumbed by their injuries and die on their way to hospital.  True journalism in the sense of freedom of expression and neutral reporting seems virtually impossible. Newspapers, radio stations, TV channels all over the country are owned, censored and watched by the government. The introduction of the Treason Law gave the government even more power to attack and search small independent news agencies without any further reasons. The police forces arrest Journalists and shut whole agencies down in case the publications go against the beliefs of government officials and Vladimir Putin. In February alone 5 independent Russian newspapers were shut down.

Zeena drew a very worrying comparison within the lecture between the circumstances in Russia and Germany under Hitler’s rule. The press, she stated, is used as an organ of propaganda. Even if the people are aware of the real happenings in Russia they are too afraid to talk about it. The situation seems to be hopeless and very depressing and there is little that can be done about it, except for raising the awareness of the issues and pushing those who have the power to influence towards action.

Photo Courtesy: Wien, 2010

Tamara Moumna
Tamara Moumna

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