The Difference, Part 5

Monday, July 31, 2006

In case you missed it, Vladimir Putin signed into law on Friday last a bill "broadening the definition of extremism to include media criticism of state officials....

The new legislation will allow imprisonment of up to three years for journalists, and the suspension or closure of their publication if convicted..."

Yep, media criticism of public officials puts you in the pokey for three years in Russia now.

But don't think gagging reporters and ripping free speech to shreds are all he's been up to. Nope, the former KGB honcho [what is le mot juste here, "fuehrer"?—sounds too loaded, "leader"?—sounds too New-York-Timesish, "head"?—misses the point entirely, "czar"?—too close to the truth] has been a busy beaver. He recently signed a law to guarantee the monopoly of Gazprom, one his largest backers, to all natural gas in Russia (and hence to much of Europe), one banning Duma members from changing parties (can't have free association either), and an agreement with Venezuela to sell them advanced military planes in defiance of a US ban. But wait, there's more.

In case the message wasn't completely clear, two German journalists were jailed in advance of the G8 summit, even before the current journalism bill was signed.

The Difference is an ongoing series seeking to determine whether there is any point in the further continuance of Western Democracy, or whether we're just as bad as our enemies.


Syl said...

First step: Kick Russia out of the G8.

Next step: I haven't a clue.

chuck said...

Is the Monroe doctrine still in place?

David Thomson said...

This is very bad news. Russia is doomed for the foreseeable future to remain authoritarian and poverty stricken. Thankfully, it will also be difficult for our former cold war adversary to truly compete against us on the world stage. At the very worst, Putin can only throw an occasional monkey wrench into the works.

A Free Man said...

Russia is on the way doen toward dictatorship! I'm only waiting for him to change the constitution to let himself run again.

Waiting with baited breath!

Skookumchuk said...


At the very worst, Putin can only throw an occasional monkey wrench into the works.

True. But it might be a big monkey wrench. Lots of scientists and some manufacturing capacity left.

The other imponderable is what Russia really "is" today. Is it in fact centrally directed and authoritarian, which is bad, or is it more a loose affiliation of mafias with the appearance of central direction and Putin as titular head? Which is also bad.

truepeers said...

And since the Russian mafias' chief source of revenue is oil, what kind of games do you think they'll play to keep up the price? Evil, with no obvious answers for our response.

terrye said...

I am sure am glad we bought Alaska.

It is a shame about the Russians. They have such wonderful writers and artists and yet they are so incredibly incompetent.

They could screw up a wet dream.