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The Post-Soviet Media and Communication Policy Landscape: The Case of Russia

Andrei Richter

Introduction1

Twenty years ago, the first mass media statute was introduced in Russia, raising hopes that censorship would cease to be a common practice and granting basic freedoms and independence to journalists in Russia. This statute heightened expectations that further expansion of media liberties would serve democracy and the public well, and would make the “fourth estate” a powerful engine of reforms and a watchdog of democratic government.2 As I discuss in this chapter, today these hopes have largely failed to be fulfilled. In the opinion of all the international organizations that monitor media freedoms, Russia still trails most of the countries in the world.3

The humble state of the free press in Russia originated in the mid-1990s when the brakes were put on to slow down measures to develop a free press. For example, the original version of the mass media statute of December 27, 1991 outlined a future statute on broadcasting, wherein television and radio would be overseen by an independent commission (Russia 1991). Several earlier attempts by the Russian Parliament to introduce such a statute were blocked by the President. At the time of writing this chapter, the most important media outlets are governed by the decrees of the executive: broadcast licenses are issued by an appointed body at the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications; state-run stations enjoy a relatively ...

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