Recently I have observed the news coverage of the Russian elections 2008 published by the German mainstream media. An anti-Putin connotation was omnipresent in all news sources I read. As objective journalism is -- per definition -- not possible it was not a surprise that the majority of the German media is still thinking in paradigms of the Cold War as Russia was a part of the Soviet Union, a communistic dictatorship.
But the jaundice and the domination of a certain opinion was especially typical for Reuters (international press agency), Spiegel (German news magazine which belongs to the dubious Springer Group which also owns "Die BILD-Zeitung") and last but not least N24 (a German business news TV channel which belongs to the ProSieben/SAT1 Group). However I could not determine the true owners of these news networks because each of the mentioned "owner companies" is part of another meta company. Therefore the owner structure builds a kind of Matryoshka doll and it is very difficult to determine the true owner and the corresponding interests of each of the news networks. The target market of each of the mentioned news networks are educated and intellectual/academic parts of the German society.
The reason why I am writing this article is not because the news coverage (of especially the mentioned news networks) was not just prejudiced but pretty one-sided and far away of being informative. In fact the most of the remarks had FOX News quality and some of them were even obvious plain lies. In the following I want to choose N24 news channel as reference for some of the statements which were also made by Reuters and Spiegel as well:
- [N24&Co.] The speakers do not becoming tired of repeating the claim that Russia have a "controlled democracy". [Implicit connotation: Russia is not a democratic country.]
- [Comment] Is not every democracy a kind of controlled democracy where people choose a sovereign (their deputy) who influences their decisions by executive, legislative and judiciary actions? This sovereign is called government and is chosen by the majority of people which approve its future decisions in the election process.
- [N24&Co.] There were "election manipulations".
- [Comment] Well, a quite general assertion which was no specified consciously. Which kind of manipulation? There were no evident or proven fraud during counting procedures of the votes. Additionally Russia have not used voting computers -- like USA -- which can be compromised subtly. Have mainstream media (which is also controlled by the government) influenced the decision of the public? Of course! But this is also the case in all other democratic countries where mainstream media is also controlled (more or less) by the government. E.g. the FOX News channel in the USA belongs to Rupert Murdoch and supports dedicatedly and open the Neocons and Christian Fundamentalists in the Republican/GOP party. Every opinion aside from the neocon view is treated by FOX News moderators very harshly:
- [N24&Co.] Medvedev is continuously labeled as Putin´s favorite. [Implicit connotation: Putin decides who will be the next president.]
- [Comment] Indeed, he is! He is president Putins´s favorite as much as John McCain is president Bush´s favorite and not the fellow Republican Ron Paul or even the Democrats Hilary Clinton resp. Barak Obama. Of course Putin will and have to support somebody of his fellow party members.
- [N24&Co.] The election result was determined within one hour. [Implicit connotation: The election result was already pre-determined.]
- [Comment] Russia stretched over a dozen time zones. So if polling stations in Moscow (western part of Russia) close their doors in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (the most eastern part of Russia) just another half-day is elapsed and the election supervisors could already determine the results. Furthermore after the mentioned "within one hour" only 70% of all votes were counted and the "election result" was a generic prognosis.
- [N24&Co.] N24 stated that the elections were monitored by the police and as N24 mentioned it, they show pictures of uniformed people forming a bulk and talking with each other. [Implicit connotation: The elections are accompanied by civil commotion so police is required to keep the crowd calm.]
- [Comment] In fact this uniformed crowed were not the police but Russian soldiers who waited in front of the polling station to cast their votes.
- [N24&Co.] The N24 journalist Ralf Finke mentioned a GDP growth of 8% per year but also an inflation of 12%. [Implicit connotation: The country is growing but the people are still suffering.]
- [Comment] The numbers are true and the Bank of Finland shows the same numbers but the Bank of Finland also shows that in the past eight years the percental average wage growth of the population was always higher than the inflation rate. [In 2008: 11.9% inflation rate vs. >33% average wage growth]
There were even much more one-sided and tendentious comments made by Reuters, Spiegel and N24 but I had to reduce the number to illuminate just some of the most frequently mentioned prejudices and unproven assertions. In fact the most Russian are very satisfied with president Putin´s leadership what I have experienced during many conversations with Russians (college students and other intellectuals as well as working class people).
And the most important question: Who is behind Reuters, N24 and Spiegel; who are their share holders? N24 belongs to ProSiebenSat1 Media AG which belongs to Lavena Holding 5 GmbH but who controls Lavena? What are their particular interests? I have talked with college students from Bulgaria and with students with Muslim cultural background about Spiegel an their attitude towards this news magazine. All of them share the opinion that Spiegel is one-sided and quite tendentious in certain issues.