Tragedy of the 'Optimistic' Channel

posted 7 Feb 2014, 04:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Feb 2014, 04:36 ]
5 February 2014

Vera Vasilyeva

Dozhd as a TV channel is being shut down, the channel’s general director, Natalya Sindeyeva, and its owner, Aleksandr Vinokurov, announced on Tuesday, 4 February. No one is considering ending its broadcasting completely (via the Internet), but what is in fact at issue is the closing down of the Dozhd as a channel available on TV. The last operator of satellite television, Trikolor TV, which provided access to Dozhd for most of its viewers, will cease transmitting Dozhd programming on 10 February.

This decision was taken on Monday during a meeting of the management of Trikolor TV. The official reason given is an inconsistency between the editorial policy of the TV channel and the prinicples by which the company’s sales’ packets are formed.

Earlier, Akado, Rostelekom, NTV Plus, Dom.Ru, Beeline and other Russian operators shut off the TV channel for different reasons.

Dohzd will continue to broadcast on the Internet. But without being able to reach the TV screens, this is not television. It would be just the same as having an Internet portal on a loca computer.

The events give a feeling of déjà vu. They are reminniscent of the strangling of NTV (and subsequently TV6 and TVC) after which all the rest became possible (the destruction of many other mass media outlets, the Yukos case, and so on)

But in the history of the self-styled ‘optimistic’ TV channel, there is one principal difference from everything that has happened before. The prosecutor’s investigation has not found any sign of extremism in the ill-fated survey which the TV channel carried out. No one is trying to take away its license. The factual extermination of Dozhd is not being carried out by any sort of censorship, but with the help of self-censorship by the operators. It is possible that some of them were made to understand the position of the authorities. But I am convinced that the majority of the companies hurried to shut off the signal by themselves.

Here it is appropriate to quote the widely cited phrase of journalist Elena Tregubovoy: “There is no Putin, there is only ourselves”.

What, in my opinion, is most terrible is that this well-planned and targetted discrediting of Dozhd is being carried out without any orders being issued out loud. One can fight against a dictator but it is much harder to defeat one’s own servility.

Excluding Dozhd from the ether is a very serious violation of the principles of freedom of speech. Besides, this is not only an issue of the destruction of one more independent TV channel or putting pressure on the rest of the journalists so they won't dare to step out of line.

The only way to defend the TV channel would be a united position loudly stated by the community of professional journalists and TV watchers, as well as from civil society.

We are not worth anything if we allow a recurrence of events of twelve years ago.

Translated by Eva Cukier