Monday, April 29, 2024

Despite Fears, Putin hasn’t Restored Soviet-Style Media Isolation for Russians, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 26 – Despite the fears of many, Vladimir Putin has not blocked the access of Russians to alternative media, commentator Sergey Shelin says; but his policies which have included the closure of some internet sites and Facebook and led some media outlets to move abroad have changed the pattern of the consumption of media in Russia today.  

            Levada Center surveys show, he continues, that Russian reliance on and attitudes toward state television have remained largely the same; but use of and trust in Telegram channels has increased, from nine percent to 24 percent and five percent to 18 percent respectively (

            But use and trust in Internet sites has fallen, not only because telegram channels and YouTube provide more attractive options, Shelin says, but also because many Russians fear that their use of websites is monitored and that if they visit sites the authorities don’t like, they will find themselves in trouble.

            Telegram channels don’t inspire similar fears, and not surprisingly, they have become especially popular among Russians under the age of 25 who read them more than they watch TV. Even their elders are making the same choice, and today 32 million Russians turn to telegram channels and spend on average 5.1 hours on telegram every day.

            Tens of millions of Russians thus have access to information not controlled by the state via telegram or web pages produced by media centers in the West, a situation very different than was the case in Soviet times when far fewer people listened to “foreign voices” or read underground samizdat.

            And that difference from Soviet times must be recognized and hopefully exploited by those who want to challenge the Putin regime, even though the Kremlin leader still dominates the media landscape in his country in ways far greater than in any free and democratic country, Shelin concludes.

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