Medvedev Talks to Novaya Gazeta on Internet Control, Democracy in Russia

Russia watchers are reading a lot into President Medvedev’s decision to give a rare and wide-ranging interview to Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper that has had four of its journalists assassinated in recent memory, including Anna Politovskaya. Many believe those journalists have been killed for their critical political coverage. The trial and eventual release of Politovskaya’s alleged killers was quite a bit of political theater (as both comedy and tragedy), which Keith Gessen described well in this New Yorker piece. Novaya Gazeta has also been critical of the Kremlin, although it’s worth noting that newspapers in Russia are allowed more latitude in their coverage than television. The Internet, it appears, remains a relatively free space relative to other Russian media, especially TV.

The Washington Post summarized the interview here, but they left out an important section: Medvedev’s view of control of the Internet in Russia. As I’ve written here before, the Russian president’s views on freedom of the Russian Internet are more liberal and open than one might expect. He confirmed those views again in the Novaya Gazeta article (in Russian), reminding us that he uses the Internet everyday (take that John McCain!), and that the Internet is “the best platform for discussion” that there is. He also called for expanded Internet access in Russia, but noted the steep costs for wiring such a large country. In terms of regulation of the Internet, Medvedev says that Russia needs to be smart about how they go about it; on the one hand ensuring its continued development, but at the same time preventing criminal elements from taking advantage of Internet technologies. The Internet, he concludes, is not any more dangerous than any other means (of communication), and is not “absolutely evil.”

When asked about the need for the “rehabilitation of democracy” in Russia, Medvedev demurred, noting that Russian democracy did not need rehabilitating, that many Russian view democracy and particularly the institutions created in the 1990s skeptically, in part due to economic upheavals at the time, and that “nowhere does democracy require rehabilitation.” I’ll have to disagree with that statement, since many have argued that democracy, including established democratic systems, require constant attention, care and feeding to ensure their survival. He concludes that democracy existed, exists and will exist in Russia, which the Post reminds us, is not dissimilar from the Soviet slogan that Lenin lived, lives, and will live. We’ll have to wait and see if the same holds for the Internet in Russia.

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One Response to “Medvedev Talks to Novaya Gazeta on Internet Control, Democracy in Russia”

  1. Internet & Democracy Blog » Russian President Starts LiveJournal Blog Says:

    […] reaction and further discussion of his widely publicized interview with Novaya Gazeta, which I wrote about last week, including the development of democracy and civil society in Russia. Comments on the new […]