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Capitulation: Obama Admin Mum as Russia Squeezes Opposition Press

Leading independent paper Novaya Gazeta is on the ropes and Russian internet media is next, but Obama would prefer to keep up appearances.

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October 29, 2010 - 3:05 pm
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The Obama administration, spearheaded by “conservative” Michael McFaul, is working feverishly to undermine American values in Russia and to turn back the clock on democratic reform, just so that Obama can claim illusory “victories” in regard to nuclear weapons and Iran. It’s time actual conservatives stood up to McFaul and his band of treacherous brown-noses in the White House.

A few weeks ago, a Russian court ruled that the country’s leading independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, had violated the press code of conduct by covering and reporting the statements of Russia’s exploding skinhead nationalist groups. Under the code, it’s two strikes and you’re out: one more such “conviction” and the Kremlin can simply switch off the mighty little paper’s gallant presses for good.

It’s perfectly clear now that the Kremlin does not intend to allow Novaya Gazeta — the publisher of murdered hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya — to survive much longer. After the next presidential elections, if not before, the paper will breathe its last, and print journalism will go the way of the dodo. Only days ago, the Russian version of Newsweek shut its doors, removing one of the last somewhat independent magazines from the newsstands as well.

When responding to such ominous events, one of the favorite propaganda memes used by the Putin dictatorship is that it does not matter if the Kremlin liquidates newspapers and TV stations and replaces them with government-sponsored pablum, because “there is always the internet,” and the Kremlin can’t control that. A new Harvard study proves what a ridiculous lie that is.

Even if the internet did offer a solid edifice of freedom for Kremlin criticism, most Russians would never see it. Russia is a country with an average wage of $3 per hour and an average lifespan that doesn’t rank among the top 130 countries in the world. Most Russians simply can’t afford regular internet access, and two-thirds of them almost never use it.

Given that miniscule audience, Harvard’s finding that there are only 11,000 blogs in all of Russia dedicated to “active core discussion” of basic issues is hardly surprising. Harvard found that the vast majority of this miniscule population (remember, Russia has over 140 million citizens) is located on just one blogging platform, LiveJournal, and it found that only a small fraction of them are devoted to serious, independent political debate (many others are either paid mouthpieces or focused on cultural topics).

The tiny number of blogs clustered on a single platform means that the Kremlin can — quite easily — shut down Russia’s blogging industry whenever it chooses to do so. And the facts clearly indicate it will happen sooner rather than later.

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