Olga Sorokina, Russia
In 2015, Russian media outlets faced increasing pressure to incorporate themselves with the Kremlin's "information war," resulting in an expansion of political involvement and propagandistic content. Independent media outlets found themselves under growing pressure from the government to conform; harsh laws and website blocking practices only worsened this pressure. Crime and corruption in Russia have also taken their toll on the country's press freedom, endangering reporters' safety and security.
As a result, Russia ranks at No. 152 out of 180 countries for press freedom.
Olga Sorokina, a journalist at Russian television channel Moya Udmurtia, spoke with IJNet about the current state of Russian media and her hopes for its future:
IJNet: In what areas do you see conditions improving for Russian journalists?
Sorokina: I think that the constant life exploration, constant practice and conversation are the important conditions improving for any (not only Russian) journalists. Traveling, studying the experience of foreign colleagues — those are the things that will help journalists to become more open, more objective. The history of Russia has influenced us, of course. For many years, we lived in an atmosphere of fear. We got used to not saying anything, changing information, creating decorations around the truth. Unfortunately, I am sure that these things happen in any country, to a varying degree.
But as far as I can see, during the last 25 years we have been creating new journalism in my country. And it's not easy. Today we feel a great necessity to talk free, openly and independently. And we need to create the platform for open and free conversation. We declare it very often, but maybe we do not have enough skills yet, we don’t have a historical memory. So practice and studying of international experience can help.
How can reporters avoid the pressure to self-censor?
I think the question of self-censorship is the question that can only be asked of а journalist him or herself; it's just his or her business. It is a matter of internal courage, inner freedom and commitment to the cause of journalism. The political, economical, cultural, etc. situation in our countries may be different. But no one can make a decision for you, whether it's what to do or how to write. I think we journalists always need to remember this to be free from self-censorship.
Is there any way for reporters to publish work with international news outlets to avoid government prosecution — particularly work that covers Crimea or Ukraine? What about independent news outlets?
Does Moya Udmurtia or the Udmurtia Broadcasting Company do anything to safeguard its reporters from government pressure, or to make working conditions better for reporters in general?
The thing is that Moya Udmurtia is a state broadcasting company. That means to work there, you need to understand that first of all you will translate the government's official point of view, cover government activities and cooperate with the government's press service. Moya Udmurtia is a small regional media company. So we have a relatively quiet life; for example, we don’t have really strong opposition. But we all know that journalists at the big federal state media in Moscow have to make a choice, if they're ready to translate the official point of view.
What do you hope will happen to journalism in Russia in 2016 and beyond? What type of media climate would you eventually like to see there?
Do you know any country with absolutely free media? Well, it’s a question without an answer. I think the situation will be the same – you'll see the official point of view on the federal media, and the private point of view on the small independent media and on social networks. Having platforms for different points of view, free conversation and high culture – that’s my dream for Russian media.
This interview has been edited.