Russian media warned against speaking of crisis

To be fair to the new regime, it’s not as though they have thrown anyone in jail for discussing the economic realities. Not yet, at least. From Reuters:

The financial crisis is presenting Russia’s ruling elite with the most serious challenge to its power in a decade.

The Kremlin has responded by offering a bailout package and economic stimulus measures between them worth over $200 billion.

But journalists and critics say the Kremlin has deployed another weapon too: using its grip on the media to try to prevent ordinary people from finding out how bad things really are.

Russia’s sovereign debt was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s for the first time in 10 years on Dec. 8, stocks have lost about 70 percent of their value since May, and the central bank has spent $160.3 billion in a bid to support the rouble.

A reporter for a major Russian newspaper said editors told staff at morning meetings to exercise care when reporting on the impact of the crisis inside Russia.

“It comes from the top, via the meetings the top editors have with the government and the Kremlin,” said the reporter, asking not to be named because he feared he could lose his job if he spoke publicly on the issue.

“The reasoning is to prevent panic from spreading inside Russia. We can still report on the crisis but we have to be very careful of how we term things, so it is a way of reporting rather than an outright ban.”

At the end of last week Russia’s chief macroeconomic planner was overruled by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after saying Russia was already in a recession.

Within hours, Putin told a different story, trumpeting growth of around 6 percent for 2008 and predicting Russia would weather the financial storm.


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