Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses Expands Despite Putin’s Oft-Repeated Words

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 7 – Vladimir Putin has received good press for saying there was no reason for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be prosecuted for their faith, pocketing that while his minions have continued to oppress them. As a result, and despite the lack of significant coverage, more than 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are now being prosecuted despite Putin’s words. 

            Putin’s success in influencing coverage of his actions is highlighted in a story carried by VOA’s Russian Service that brackets reports about State Department sanctions against Russia for its treatment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and about how bad things are with Putin’s words at the beginning and the suggestion at the end that perhaps the Kremlin leader isn’t in control (

            VOA deserves praise for covering a story all too many Western news outlets have ignored, for calling attention to Memorial’s judgement that the Jehovah’s Witnesses behind bars in Russia are political prisoners, and for reporting, as Anatoly Pchelintsev of the Religion and Law organization says, that freedom of conscience is now a myth in Russia.

            But what is one to make of its placement of the conclusions of Svetlana Solodovnik of Moscow’s Yezhednevny zhurnal at the end of the report it may take a certain amount of time for Putin’s words to be implemented in the regions – where things are worse than in the capitals, she says – and even that “possibly, Putin does not fully control the process”?

            At the same time, the Russian journalist says, it certainly appears that “the president is satisfied with what the investigators and the FSB are doing and considers that they are in the right. In any case, there is no evidence that he has somehow corrected their work” – implicitly distancing him from what they do.

            This is what happens when the pursuit of balance becomes a substitute for objectivity, something Putin appears to understand very much better than many in the West and a trend in much of the Western media he has regularly exploited to present an image of himself that allows him to escape being held responsible for some of his most reprehensible actions. 

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