From Russia with Love

by Angelica Jimenez–

The participants of the Chicago-Moscow Exchange  Thursday came prepared for a blunt and honest discourse on the state of journalism and journalist ethics.  It made me realize the crucial role journalism plays in fostering a democratic society.

Without a free press, nations will surely succumb totalitarian or dictator regimes.  The group, which included journalists, politicians and professors, was frank in discussing the restrictions they faced by the government in power, but there wasn’t a sense of the defeat in their voices.

One journalist from Georgia had a sense of humor when sharing his experiences stating, “we have full freedom of speech to criticize the president–as long as it’s Russia.”

A liberal opposition politician, Ivan, said a small newspaper, Moscow Korrespondent, ran a story in April 2008 claiming the Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin was having an affair with Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, 31 years his junior, and had secretly divorced his wife.  Igor Dudinsky, the paper’s deputy editor, stated he was convinced the story was true and stood behind his reporter.  Putin publicly denied the affair, and the paper’s owner shut it down within hours after Putin spoke out.

But despite such governmental control, there are independent publishers and bloggers who have found a way to freely express themselves.  Criticism of the federal government, for example, is safer than criticism of local governments and therefore can be practiced at a lesser risk.

The members of the exchange didn’t seem willing to fold under this pressure and are strategically fighting the resistance to this push despite some serious governmental crackdowns.

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