How the Kremlin is killing off the last of Russia’s independent media

Masha Gessen writes: A former colleague of mine claims she has made friends with an aging she-wolf and has generally grown to prefer animals to people. She also claims there is life after journalism: Following a decade as a reporter, she is running the public relations department of the Moscow Zoo. Another former colleague is raising money for a special education center in the city and gradually learning to work with the children. A third, a science reporter, is helping redesign a science-and-technology museum in Moscow. Roughly half of the members of an editorial team I led just a couple of years ago have left the profession; the other half are lucky enough to have jobs writing or editing for one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Moscow—and for each of them this is probably their last job in journalism. The death watch is on for Russia’s independent media.

There are many ways to kill a media outlet. The simplest is to pull the plug. But, as the independent-minded journalists in the Siberian city of Tomsk have learned, even this process isn’t quite so simple in Russia.

Tomsk’s TV-2 was Russia’s last remaining independent regional broadcast television channel—an anomaly, as it’s been over a decade since the Russian state took almost complete control of broadcast television, both federal and local. An unusually liberal city administration, an owner who was a masterful negotiator, and a versatile and energetic legal team had ensured the station’s survival.

But in mid-April, TV-2 went off the air. The government-owned service that controls broadcast technology in the city told the station that a segment of cable called the “feeder” had burned out and promised to have it fixed soon. Then, on May 15—which happened to be the station’s 23rd birthday—TV-2 got a notice from the regulatory authority that its license would be revoked if it did not immediately resume service. Since the mysterious “feeder” had still not been fixed by the other state agency, it couldn’t. As of this writing, TV-2 is off the air and unlikely ever to resume broadcasting. [Continue reading…]

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