Russia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Russia's rating declined from Partly Free to Not Free because of the closure of the last independent national television broadcaster, negative state influence over public and private media, and repeated attacks against journalists.

Freedom of the press declined in Russia as a result of continued legal, political, and economic pressure. Article 29 of the constitution bans censorship and guarantees freedom of expression. However, Russian media do not always enjoy these rights in practice. Following critical reporting of the Moscow hostage crisis, parliament passed a law restricting media coverage of emergency or national security operations. President Vladimir Putin subsequently vetoed controversial sections of the law; however, the affair did little to diminish the growing antagonism between the government and the independent press. Prominent reporters and nongovernmental organizations have complained of an official campaign against independent journalism under Putin's "guided democracy." Journalists and media organizations are frequently the targets of politically motivated libel suits. Political influence permeates nearly all levels of the media. In January, judicial authorities ordered the closing of TV-6, the last independent national broadcaster, after a suit was brought against it by the partially state-owned energy company LUKoil. State-controlled broadcasters now dominate the national airwaves. The majority of newspapers and magazines are privately owned, yet a handful of powerful oligarchs control nearly all of the country's national publications. Journalists routinely experience harassment, physical violence, and death threats. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that three media professionals were killed in connection with their work during 2002. The Russian military restricts access to the Chechen war zone, issuing accreditation primarily to those loyal to the government. The disruptive effects of the war severely hinder news production and the flow of information to the general public.