Russian media: the struggle for freedom of expression

Zhanna Nemtsova, guest speaker on Russian media debate

Experts for Security and Global Affairs Association (ESGA) has organized on June 23rd, 2017, the fourth debate Russian Media: Perspectives for Stagnation or Change during Putin’s Last Presidential Term . The guest speaker of the event was Zhanna Nemtsova, journalist, Deutsche Welle, Bonn, Germany along with Anton Barbashin, managing editor of Intersection, Poland. The debate was moderated by Miruna Munteanu, programm host at TVR International, Bucharest, Romania.

The discussion was focused on the Russian media, ownership and legal issues, innovative and independent news sources and regional media outlets. During the debate, one of Zhanna Nemtova’s statements on media in Russia was the following:

“The main outcome for the Russian media market on the Putin’s leadership, he is been ruling our country for over 17 years, is that all big media outlets are either directly controlled by the state or they belong to groups or oligarchs, or companies that are extremely loyal to the Russian political leadership.”

Zhanna Nemtsova has mentioned also that in Russia there are two media empires, and one of them in under control of Gazprom media company. Even the social media networks are under the control of the oligarchs that are close to the governing regime. In 2015 in Russia a law that restrains the Russian foreign media leadership up to 20% was adopted. That led to the fact that all big publishing houses left Russia.

According to our guest in Russia there is still independent media, but it does not enjoy a big audience.

Anton Barbashin, our second guest expert, referred to the US – Russia agenda, which constituted the main subject of the public debate in the Russian media outlets for several years already:

“Basically the last four years since annexation of Crimea, and actually a long before that, one of the main constructs that kind of guided and gave us the understanding on what propaganda was based on was the anti-Americanism and anti-American sentiment, though it will accurate to say anti-Western sentiment, but it is always focused on the United States as the leader of the West and the biggest power.”

Anton Barbashin added that there is also missing the progress from the American –Russian dialogue during Trump’s era. There is possible now a new escalation in the bilateral dialogue between US and Russia that would be needed now, before the elections.

Also, he has mentioned that there are certain important trends that can influence the situation of media:

„A certain number of trends, first of all economic trends that make it hard to produce any sort of a positive agenda, and this is basically the second large topic that should be monitored because it will also define how the media market and propaganda will behave is the Russian economic state. What we have being noticing for the last years is that the drop that Russia has experienced in the 2014-2015 due to the sanctions, the oil prices, has more or less calm down.”

The economic decline for now has been more or less managed by the government.

Another important subject mentioned by Anton Barbashin refereed to social protests:

“There is a sort of taboo on covering social protests. For example, how many of you have been following or heard about the trucker protests in Russia? In the last couple of years there were a large number of protests of truck drivers across Russia that attracted literally thousands of people, individual truck drivers protesting on very unfair law that would tax them significantly and complicate their work in many ways and forms.” Social and economic protests, not political ones, will probably be more important to be monitored in the near future.

About 40 participants, experts and academia representatives had the opportunity to be actively involved in the debate using the OSM (Open Space Method).

Russin media debate 3

Russian media debate 4


This debate is the fourth one and it is part of the series of events within the project “Dialogues with Russia for a new generation of experts” implemented by ESGA. Within this project ESGA aims to engage the young generation of experts proactively in the efforts oriented on setting a new agenda for the dialogue with Russia and to encourage the participation into public debates.

The first event held on March 7, 2017, having Mr. Andrei Kolesnikov, Senior Associate, Carnegie Moscow Center, as the main guest speaker along with Maria Domanska, Senior Fellow Russian Department, the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW). The second event was organized on March 31st, 2017, having Mr. Konstantin von Eggert, Russian media personality, former diplomatic correspondent, programme host and commentator at TV Rain, Moscow. The third debate was focused on the Russian economic and energy policies and the latest evolution within the Black Sea area. The guest speaker of the event was Dr. Mikhail Krutikhin, co-founder and leading analyst of RusEnergy, Moscow, Russian Federation along with Dr. Adrian Gheorghe, Professor, Engineering Management & Systems Engineering, Old Dominion University, USA.

Media partners of the event:

  • The Epoch Times Romania

The debate was also attended by many Romanian News Agency representatives, TVR International, PS NEWS, Revista 22, Antena 3 TV and the conclusions of the event were presented in these media sources.

TVR International:

This interview were presented in a special edition of “Orizont European” at TVR International, a TV Show moderated by Miruna Munteanu, producer Aura Iosif:

PS News: “Presa lui Putin, sub lupa fiicei lui Boris Nemţov. Eveniment inedit în România”, de Marinela Anghelus,

Detailed information about ESGA projects is available on the website and Facebook page

The Experts for Security and Global Affairs Association (ESGA) is a Romanian think tank designed as an online platform that will bring together researchers, experts, analysts, journalists, civil society representatives both from Romania and from abroad, specialized in the study of political, socio-economic and security the of the ex-soviet space, Euro-Atlantic area and the Middle East. ESGA is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization and think tank.

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