A meeting of the World Association of Newspapers in Göteborg, Sweden sparked with controversy Tuesday, after a speech by The Other Russia leader Garry Kasparov described press freedom as absent in Russia.
As the Sobkor®ru news agency reports, Kasparov spoke before a gathering of international news industry leaders, and described the “mythology of the Putin regime.” He called the group to stand up to infractions against press freedom in Russia.
After the speech, Yevgeny Abov, the representative of the Russian delegation, renounced Kasparov’s remarks, and said that the press agency he represented at the forum, RIA Novosti, was completely free. Abov said that RIA, which is state-run, frequently publishes information about the Russian opposition.
Kasparov then asked Abov if RIA Novosti was prepared to provide him with space for a press-conference.
Abov answered in the affirmative, promising that space would be made available for Kasparov. At that point, another member of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Sungorkin stepped in. Sungorkin, the editor-in-chief of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper was doubtful: “Kasparov is a special case”, he said “as he works with the banned National-Bolsheviks, which is why I’m not sure that he would be allowed in RIA.”
The discussion’s moderator, the deputy editor-in-chief of the Spanish El Pais newspaper, then responded in his own right: “I grew up in the days of the Franco dictatorship, and we were all ‘special cases.’”
Speaking with Sobkor®ru, Kasparov said he would try to use RIA Novosti facilities to hold a press conference in the near future.
Video of the event, courtesy of the World Editors Forum:
Participants of the World Newspaper Congress also discussed the danger journalists face in Russia. According to Rodney Pinder, of the International News Safety Institute, Russia has emerged as the world’s second most dangerous country for journalists, trailing only Iraq.
“And we don’t know of a single successful conviction in Russia,” he told The Associated Press. “And convictions are what are needed to protect journalists.”
Garry Kasparov has frequently said that media freedom has been crushed under former President Vladimir Putin, who is now Russia’s prime minister.
The latest evidence to back his statements comes from a New York Times report on self-censorship in another medium–television. As the Times writes, Russian TV channels keep a so-called “stop list” of figures who must not appear on the airwaves.
One economist critical of the Kremlin, Mikhail Delyagin, was apparently given an appearance by mistake on a popular talk show. Before “The People Want to Know” program aired, Delyagin was digitally removed from the tape.
The show’s host, Kira Proshutinskaya, said she was embarrassed over this and other incidents, and admitted that networks are constantly intimidated by the Kremlin.
“I would be lying if I said that it is easy to work these days,” she told the Times. “The leadership of the channels, because of their great fear of losing their jobs — they are very lucrative positions — they overdo everything.”