Apr 10, 2007
Wonkette Wankesse - Not Knowing Her Ivan
The Wonkette is not eye-catchingly malfeasant, or even conspicuously incompetent beyond the regular fray of weeny-willied wonks, when she hysterically suggests that Putin's Kremlin is killing off Russian journalists critical of the Kremlin.
Silly articles like this are hardly a scarce commodity in western media and many seem to teem with the Wonkette's same retrograde metaphysical speculation that remains markedly divorced of any educated grip on reality de Rusky.
The Wonkette recently wrote, "There is definitely some bad luck going around the anti-Putin movement. [R]ussian journalist Ivan Safronov mysteriously fell to his death from a fifth-floor apartment window; Safronov was working on a story about Russia selling arms to Iran and Syria.It has become a very dangerous business to question, criticize or investigate Putin’s regime."
This particular innuendo is somehow assumed to be substantiated by an assumption that since Safronov was employed by Kommersant, one of a handful of independent newspapers in Russia, he must therefor have been something of a staunch critic of Putin & Co. In fact, this is quite untrue. Even Kommersants chief editor Ilja Bulavinov has repeatedly sought to make an effort to refute western claims that Safronov was some or any kind of critic of the regime.
According to Bulavinov, Safronov had worked on a story about the occurence of corruption surrounding the planned delivery of some of Russia's newest weapons systems to Iran and Syria. In 2005 the delivery of the missile system Iskander to Syria was stopped after Safronov's article. During a visit in Israel, Putin said that his military had wanted to sell the system but that Putin himself had put a stop to it.
One can understand Kommersant's irritation over claims, insinuations, and analysis by lazy brained wonks in the west that paint the relationship between Russian media outlets and the Kremlin as a war in which journalists are mowed down by the Kremlin in the line of duty.
The fact however is that the Russian state has either direct or indirect ownership of Kommersant - as it does of most of all other influential Russian media outlets. An article not quite to the liking of the Kremlin can quite easily be squashed with one phone call to an editor. Nobody needs be killed for such simple tasks.
The only Russian journalist murdered of late that can be accurately characterized as a critic of the regime was Anna Politkovskaja from Novaja Gazeta. She wrote extensively about taboo subjects such as torture and abductions in Chechnya.
The management of contemporary Russian media outlets knows all too well, as do most of their employees, what is permissible journalism and what is "off limits". Most have diligently internalized an encyclopedic guidebook on self-censorship.
So the question begs asking, for what reason are representatives of Kremlin-controlled media outlets constantly being threatened, bullied, and murdered? Why is journalism still one of the most dangerous jobs in Russia?
The answer is simple: State power pulled off reining in the free press but couldn't effectively combat corruption and create a credible judicial system. In almost all cases, Russian journalists are murdered when they get in the way of someone making a buck.
To recruit thugskis to do one's dirty work can cost anything from a bottle of vodka to a hundred thousand dollars paid through middlemen liaising with any given private security firm. The price really only depends on the depth of the pockets of the customer and the esoterica of the death wish. Few of these crimes are ever resolved.
The murder of journalists in Russia can only be termed political in one particular regard; corruption is the most significant threat against the stability of Russia and one always runs the risk of stumbling upon a new vein of corruption no matter the course of investigation one embarks upon. Through their deaths, even the most Kremlin-loyal journalists inadvertently end up being the Kremlins most dogged critics.