May 01, 2001

Journalists, Heal Thyselves

How low the standards of Russian dissidents have fallen. In Soviet times, dissidents protested on Red Square against the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, only to end up in prisons or psychiatric asylums. Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn was forced to emigrate for publishing abroad; physicist Andrei Sakharov went on a hunger strike when he was exiled to Gorky.

Today, Russian “dissidents” are of a different stripe. In the recent, widely-publicized brouhaha over NTV, which has many ill-informed intellectuals lamenting the loss of freedom of speech in Russia, one cannot discern even a pale shadow of the noble Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn.

Dismissed NTV General Director Yevgeny Kiselyov and his loyalists staged spectacular “show-meetings” against the “hostile takeover” of NTV by Gazprom (which swapped debt owed it by NTV’s parent company for shares in the company). But their true motivations were revealed when it became clear that the new ownership might make the old managers and top journalists repay $100-200,000 in interest-free loans that former owner Vladimir Gusinsky had extended them.

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