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The New Face of Russian TV

18 October 2012 

Vera Vasilieva

Sergei Udaltsov, coordinator of Left Front, has been given bail with travel restrictions after being questioned by the Investigative Committee. A criminal case has been opened on charges of "preparing to organize mass disturbances" in connection with the NTV programme "Anatomy of a Protest-2".

Udaltsov was taken to the Investigative Committee by masked special police officers after a lengthy search of his flat. Udaltsov’s comrade, Konstantin Lebedev was also interrogated by the Investigative Committee and held, for the time being, for 24 hours.

Investigators were searching for yet another “suspect” in this case, aide to the State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, Leonid Razvozzhaev. "Anatomy of a protest-2" broadcast material, sercretly filmed, which alleged to show a meeting between Sergei Udaltsov, Konstantin Lebedev, Leonid Razvozzhaev and their ally Yury Aimoledginov with Givi Targamadze, head of the Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security. The latter allegedly intended to give money to Udaltsov to organise a revolution in Russia. 

“It has been established that a voice, recorded during parts of the film shot by a hidden camera and broadcast as part of "Anatomy of a Protest-2," is that of Udaltsov, and the meeting, of which fragments are shown in the film, took place during the second half of June 2012, in a dwelling in the capital of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk," said, Vladimir Markin, Press Officer of the Investigative Committee of Russia.

For their part, Udaltsov and Lebedev rejected the view taken by the producers of the film.

The political beliefs of Udalstov are quite alien to me, but in this case this is of no significance. In my opinion, the opening of a criminal investigation against Left Front coordinator Udaltsov on the basis of a television programme marks the opening of a new era in our lives.

What is at issue is not so much the pseudo-evidence on which the whole thing is built, although the repeated showing of identical shots with different subtitles imposed on them is visible to the naked eye. Viewers noticed them, in contrast to the public prosecutor's Office, which did "not find" any signs of post-production film editing. 

We have managed to accept as a fact of life that state-run TV has changed from being a mass media outlet to being an instrument of all-out propaganda. Alas, “The Prisoners of Power” (also known as “The Inhabited Island") written by the Strugatsky brothers continues to be relevant to the present day situation. 

To our common misfortune, we have become familiar with the fabrication of criminal cases. Some are indifferent to this ("it’s nothing to do with me"), others are outraged. But, in general, for a long time now this has been no surprise to anyone.

For many years broadcasts on state media have backed monstrous convictions which have not been based on any evidence whatsoever. It is enough to recall the case of the former Yukos employee Aleksei Pichugin, and the false propaganda which was unleashed against him . And which, incidentally, deprived Pichugin of the opportunity to have his case heard by a jury at his second criminal trial.

Then, in September 2005, Andreiy Karaulov in the programme "Moment of Truth" also showed a film which depicted Yukos as an "organized criminal group". The so-called "witnesses" and "victims" shown by Karaulov turned out to enjoy legal impunity. On the one hand, the machine of Basmanny court justice was already working flawlessly. On the other hand, no one obliged the "heroes" of the film prior to filming to give their word to speak the truth and only the truth.

However, the current situation is qualitatively new.

The fact is that for the first time it is not propaganda that serves to prepare public opinion for repressive measures against citizens and a background for the fabricated criminal cases. On the contrary, the criminal case is instituted against those whose actions have allegedly been “exposed after checking the facts of the programme". That’s how the Investigative Committee themselves justify their actions. 

So, you could say that today TV has become part of the repressive apparatus of the State. 

Apparently, now the law enforcement agencies will no longer need to conduct any investigatory measures, collect dubious facts about the potential "fall guy." It will be sufficient for the television people to make a programme about him and the “evidence” will be ready. And the next step is the trial.

Whether it’s Khamochnichesky district court or Moscow City Court, it’s all the same “Basmanny” justice. As is well known, the acquittal rate of Russian courts is less than one percent.