Staunton, August 19 – Maksim Glikin, a senior editor of Open Media who himself was declared “a foreign agent” last month, says there are five theories currently circulating about why the Russian media are being subject to “carpet bombing” by the authorities this summer. He adds that any or all are possible but none are entirely convincing.
Vladimir Putin has been moving against the media since he became president, but never before this summer has he and his representatives attacked so many outlets and journalists on so many grounds and with such vigor. That raises the question “why now?” And journalists, commentators and officials have offered five explanations (republic.ru/posts/101356).
First, some insist this is the regime’s response to last winter’s protests by Aleksey Navalny and his people. Those who offer this version thus suggest that it is somehow the opposition’s fault. But there is a problem with chronology: many of the means the regime is using now were created well before the Navalny demonstrations.
Second, others argue that this is all about the elections, about ensuring that the Kremlin controls the messaging about them and the reactions to them. But the regime has so tightly controlled the process that this seems hardly necessary. Indeed, for it to win out as it surely will, it won’t even have to falsify the results, although it may do that by inertia.
Third, yet another group suggests this is all about Putin’s plans for a transition. He doesn’t want anyone to get ahead of where he is. But he hardly needs to destroy all the independent media to ensure that given that the Kremlin leader is in a position to decide what he will do and when regardless of what the media say.
Fourth, a small group, led by Yabloko founder Grigory Yavlinsky argue that the destruction of the last independent media is preparation for war. That the regime may launch one is of course possible. But there is a problem: Russia has no need of crushing the media first. With the first shots, the government will be able to do that, as it has typically done in the past.
And fifth, given the problems with these four theories, some are offering a fifth. They suggest that the regime has created a repressive machine and that machine now operates with a life of its own. It doesn’t need to be directed because it is now in a position to direct itself and currently it is directing itself at the media.
That doesn’t make things any better for the journalists who are its victims, but at least it means, Glikin says, that everyone can breathe more freely. After all, “anything is better than a war.”