President Putin restricts media; governments need press criticism

Freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press.It’s nothing for us to turn on the news and hear that things aren’t going well in Iraq or to write a letter to the editor arguing the point of a story that seemed one-sided.

In Russia, however, that freedom is slowly being pulled from the grasp of its citizens.

Russian president Vladimir Putin took office in 2000 touting a sense of liberalism and a belief in a market economy.

Sadly, part of Putin’s agenda has been adding increased government control in subtle, and not so subtle ways.

The latest is that the British Broadcasting Center’s Russian broadcast can no longer be aired on Russian airwaves because of license terms.

Another radio broadcast, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was dropped last year for similar reasons.

Russia has joined the ranks of China and Zimbabwe in hindering BBC broadcasts.

The BBC is appealing to the Federal Service for Mass Media Telecommunications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage with the hopes of getting its broadcast back on Russian airwaves.

All that’s left: Russian news broadcasts.

But not just any Russian news – Russian news that is generally pro-Kremlin.

In other words, the citizens of Russia are only allowed to hear what the government wants them to.

No fair and balanced coverage here.

Censorship is occurring in many more places than Russia, and, it is definitely not a new concept.

Venezuela president Hugo Chavez has censorship practices much like Putin and true communist countries have infringed upon freedom of the press for years.

Though censorship has its consequences it brings with it possibilities for more far-reaching problems.

If the press is silenced on a global scale the truth would be elusive, the people would never be able to completely believe the government-sponsored news or know what decisions the government is making. Losing the freedom of the press means losing the power of the people to hold the government accountable and losing freedom of speech.

Not only are the Russians now losing their own personal freedoms, but they’re also losing their right to know. The press is not able to function as a watchdog to the government, much like it does here.

Although this is a problem, the greater problem is what might be coming next.

It’s not likely that Putin will stop here.

Many past leaders didn’t.

He will only continue to increase his power so long as no one steps in to stop him.

Jillian Hutchison is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Omaha, Neb.