by Ben Frentzel, Travis Cornejo, and Sebastian Martinez
Calendars for Putin
In early October, news organizations and blogs picked up a very interesting story about Russian journalism students. A brewing battle between supporters and protesters of Vladimir Putin had erupted in a very visual way.
Then, a rebuttal surfaced – from the same school. A new calendar of more journalism
students spoke out in protest this time. The women were covered in black and their mouths were taped shut. Captions like, “Кто убил Анну Политковскую?” were written on the pages asking, “Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?”
The captions referred to recent killings of journalists all over Russia and to Putin’s suspected influence in those actions.
What do you get the Russian Prime Minister who has everything?
I mean, how can you top murdering a journalist (birthday No. 54) or a rare tiger (birthday No. 56)?
(The gift came just a few weeks after Putin shot an escaped Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun – saving a Russian television crew.)
Students at Moscow State University felt a racy calendar would be fitting. And it is. Putin, or at least his PR team, have worked hard throughout the past few years to promote his image as a badass, to say the least.
His most recent display came in August, when he shot a whale with a harmless dart from a small motorboat. OK – a tiger, a whale… what other stories are out there about Putin and wildlife?
So let’s put the tiger at No. 1 (Go Tigers?) and the whale at No. 2. What else makes the list?
To rip off a joke from Joshua Keating – Putin’s turning himself into the Steve Irwin of world leaders. What’s next, “Vladimir Putin’s Russia”?
When the media just reports on these antics of his, it’s hard to think of him as a threat to the freedom of speech.
Freedom of Speech in Russia
Oksana Teslo, Vyacheslav Plotnikov, Gadji Abashilov, Shafig Amrakhov, Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, Natalia Estemirova, Konstantin Popov, Bella Ksalova.
These are a few of the more than 200 journalists who have been killed in Russia since the early ’90s. Of these 200 murders, about a fourth have gone to trial. Of these, even fewer have resulted in a conviction.
On the 7th of October, 2006 Anna Politkovskaya was found dead on the floor of the elevator in her apartment, having suffered gunshot wounds to the chest, shoulder, and head. Politkovskaya was a journalist, an advocate for the ending of the Chechen conflict and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. Her murder gained international prominence, and brought attention to similar murders of Russian journalists, especially those who spoke out against the government, that had gone unsolved and often uninvestigated.
This begs the question, to what extent does free speech truly exist in Russia?
Obviously, compared with countries like North Korea or China, Russians are relatively free to speak their minds. However, if they are public figures, or journalists, or in any position of prominence, and they have negative things to say about the government, or are running a story on human rights abuses, this freedom is apparently forfeit.
Much like in Brazil or Turkey these abuses are swept under the rug. Very few people, outside those countries, have an idea of the oppression that goes on behind the scenes. Thus it’s nice when something, other than murders, like a calendar brings international attention to this issue.