In campaign against truth, Mr. Putin wields fear and economic force
(…)The autocrat’s success in walling off Russians from alternative sources of news and information, culminating now in his campaign against the country’s last independent television channel, provides a case in point. The channel TV Dozhd (meaning “rain”) was founded five years ago, when state television had become so soporifically subservient that “most people we knew had stopped watching,” as Mikhail Zygar, Dozhd’s 33-year-old editor in chief, recalled during a recent visit to The Post. Dozhd offered real news and balanced commentary. “Give TV one more chance” was its pitch. It soon built an audience of 20 million (in a nation of 142 million). (…)
Meanwhile, Mr. Zygar said, official propaganda has become less soporific and more engaging — moving from “North Korea-style” to “Fox Media-style,” he said. “Flames of hatred toward ‘Ukrainian fascists’ and ‘American aggressors’ can be seen in the eyes of every presenter, and it’s very effective. And there is no alternative, except for us.”
Mr. Putin keeps at the ready the possibility of methods harsher than advertising bans. Parliament extended the “anti-extremism” law this year in a way that allows prosecutors to charge pretty much any critic with a crime. “Hypothetically, if some news show guest says that Crimea should be returned to Ukraine, I could be thrown in jail for five years,” Mr. Zygar said. But, he noted, “It’s much easier to get rid of us with economic pressure.