Russian Media Spin Roundup: July 9th

Putin appears on South Park.  Source: provides glimpses into the Russian media, documenting self-censorship, spin, and other inaccuracies.

TV Channel Pulls Putin Caricature

The 2×2 television channel, which broadcasts primarily animated series, was taking no chances after it had a scare involving its license last fall.  In its latest season of the popular South Park cartoon, the channel has edited out the character representing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Novy Region Information Agency reports.

Putin was shown in a scene receiving a phone call from one of the young characters in the cartoon, asking to help him blast a whale to the moon.  In the sketch, Putin thinks that he is receiving a prank call from US President George W. Bush.  The clip came from the “Free Willzyx” episode first broadcast in 2005, when Putin was the President of Russia.

2×2, which started broadcasting in 2007, faced the threat of license revocation in 2008, after a hardline Christian group filed suit for alleged extremism in 12 cartoon series shown by the station.  The channel was issued a warning from Russia’s media monitoring body, and management eventually pulled the offending cartoons.  In the end, the station managed to renew its license after a public campaign to save the channel garnered more than 50,000 signatures.  In June, Russian authorities retracted the warning against 2×2.

Russia Today Invents “Mystery”

Russia Today, a government-funded news channel that broadcasts in English, was meanwhile busy spinning US President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Russian opposition.  The Chessbase news blog breaks down the not-so-subtle slant in the reporting, which downplayed the political career of United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov.

The coverage described what Russian opposition leaders said to Obama as a “mystery,” despite the fact that transcripts of the statements made by the opposition have been made publicly available.

Deputy Reinterprets Obama’s Words

State Duma Deputy Konstantin Kosachev was quick to reinterpret Barack Obama’s position on Georgia for the Russian public.  Kosachev, who chairs the Duma Committee on International Affairs, said the following at a July 8th press conference.  The sound byte of Obama’s supposed reversal of the US position on the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia was then repeated frequently throughout the media cycle.  Kosachev was responding to a question on the US support for Georgian territorial integrity.

“Obama affirmed the well known US position,” Kosachev said, “but a clear assertion followed in the same statement, that this territorial integrity must not be restored through military means.  I take these words as a signal to Tbilisi.  A serious transformation of the American position has appeared here.

“Yes, we differ on this issue, but there is no longer the same absoluteness in the words of the US representatives, as there was during the time of the George Bush administration.  Barack Obama understands the haste of the judgments made in August 2008.  And during our interactions, American congressmen admit that they obviously rushed to judgement.  This affirms the truth of our position.”

Russian Media Imagine Agreement on Oil Price at G8 Summit

The Russian media were quick to report a statement from President Dmitri Medvedev’s office, that Medvedev had floated $70-80 per barrel as a fair world oil price.  Unfortunately, they also didn’t delve too deeply into the second part of the statement, where spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said that “G8 leaders generally agreed in their remarks.”

While news outlets spun the report as a success by Medvedev, other world leaders were more than skeptical. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had this to say in response:

“We didn’t discuss a specific figure and we didn’t discuss in detail any price range … There’s no agreement on ranges.”