The Russian president has told the participants of a major media forum that society was interested in the development of independent mass media, and the state would lend support to both government-owned and private companies in this sphere.
Vladimir Putin made this statement on Tuesday as he spoke before the media-forum of the United Popular Front, a political support organization made up of those who support the president’s policies, but choose not to join any political party.
One of the journalists participating in the event complained that the private company he worked for had difficulties in competing with state-owned mass media, as the latter received help from the authorities in the form of low office rent, subsidized transport and computers, and even subsidies for staff wages. “We are surviving on our own during the crisis and we have found ourselves in completely non-market conditions,” the reporter complained.
“If we take a formal position it is all right for the state to pay for its own organizations, but society as a whole is also unconditionally interested in the development of the independent sector in mass media,” Putin answered. “We must develop the system of support that would help everyone,” he added.
"Your job is to ensure that the problems that exist everywhere in our country be resolved in a civilized fashion," Putin told reporters, noting that otherwise the potential for public protest could grow and suddenly erupt in an unpredictable fashion. "I would like to thank you for doing your job right. As I was listening to you I thought: who would dare say we don't have free media?" he added.
Ah, that would be me! My first thought is to say, "Don't do it!" Don't allow the government to be the difference between a successful operation and a marginal one. Once that happens, you are owned by the government.
My second thought was, "What"? "Your job is to ensure that the problems that exist everywhere in our country be resolved in a civilized fashion,". In other words, don't stir up controversy regardless of the injustices occurring. Don't say anything that would cause people to doubt the sincerity of the government. That's your job! But that does not remotely resemble a free media.
However, the Russian leader noted that it was important to prevent abuse of mass media by various forces. “We must surely push for the situation when no one would even attempt to use the mass media to achieve some business ends or any other interests not connected with the objectives of society or the regions,” Putin said. That is, not connected to government objectives. No competition for the oligarchs.
He also criticized the media outlets that allowed an excessive amount of advertising. “Print media must not be simply a spot for ads, they must carry useful information,” he said.
Russian bloggers have responsibilities of mass media but few of the rights
Aleksey Kazakov noted that after the adoption of the legislative amendments concerning bloggers in August 2014, the latter received additional responsibilities, but gained scarcely any additional rights.
The current Russian law orders the authors of all blogs and social media accounts with 3,000 daily readers or more to register with the state watchdog Roskomnadzor, disclose their real identities, verify the information before making it public and abstain from releasing reports containing slander, hate speech, extremist calls or other banned information such as, for example, advice on suicide. Also, the law bans popular bloggers from using obscene language.
Violations of the law carry administrative responsibility and are punishable with fines.