Muzzling the Media: The Return of Censorship in the Commonwealth of Independent States
Only a decade and a half since the end of the Cold War, freedom of the press for millions of people across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has come nearly full circle.
The media landscape across most of today’s CIS in some aspects differs from that of the Soviet era, but in important ways is imposing a no less repressive news media environment. Gone is all encompassing ideological state media control. Russia – and most of the countries on its periphery – today features modern methods of information control that effectively shuts off the majority of people in these lands from news and information of political consequence.
This contemporary form of censorship is achieved through a mix of state-enabled oligarchic control, broadcast monopolies of presidential “families,” judicial persecution and subtle and overt forms of intimidation. The Internet is a principal alternative and challenger to media hegemony in the CIS. Despite the best efforts of the authorities, some degree of independent reporting persists in authoritarian CIS states due to the commitment of enterprising and courageous journalists, as well as the possibilities offered by new technologies. Bloggers and other new media practitioners continue to push the boundaries of 21st century journalism. But while the Internet remains relatively free in Russia and a number of other post-Soviet countries, it is fast becoming a target of greater interest for new regulatory intervention by the authorities.