By Paul Goble
Vladimir Putin’s 16th “big” press conference this week was the most shameful of all because none of the questions were professional, none of the answers were honest, and the way the session was organized provided a selfie of just how far the Russian media space has deteriorated under the current Kremlin leader, Igor Yakovenko says
Not one of the 68 questions Putin was asked in the course of the 269-minute session can be described as a well-formed journalistic inquiry, and none of Putin’s replies were anything but shameful either. But the way in which the session was handled in this time of pandemic was especially appalling, the Moscow commentator says (ej.ru/?a=note&id=35695).
A dozen selected journalists were allowed into the presence, but most Moscow media types were confined to the International Trade Center; and regional journalists to somewhere in one of the major cities beyond the ring road. Finally, the Presidential Administration established a phone in line for the general public, making sure it was under the control of a reliable cadre.
In short, Yakovenko says, this arrangement “completely corresponded to the feudal pyramid of a medieval society as portrayed in a school history textbook.”
The journalists and the Russian people under this arrangement performed exactly as expected, asking questions that allowed Putin to avoid difficult issues and to talk about what a success he and his regime have been in regard to everything. Nowhere was this selection more obvious than in one question from the people.
A young Russian asked the pressing question: why do people abroad hate us so much and why are they always trying to undermine Russia? That of course allowed Putin to respond that “simple people everywhere love us but politicians don’t because they envy us.” No doubt the young man was reassured.
The one question that couldn’t be avoided altogether was handled with particular care. A pocket journalist was set up to ask about the new information about the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny. Putin responded by again refusing to pronounce Navalny’s name but instead referred to him as “a patient in a Berlin clinic enjoying the support of the US special services.”
Then, the Kremlin leader delivered the high point of the session. He said that no one in Russia had poisoned Navalny “not because killing a citizen of your own country by the forces of the special services is somehow not acceptable but only because ‘no one needed’ that and therefore ‘didn’t want to.’”
“If by some miracle there had been preserved a journalistic community in Russia, then, all the journalists without exception would have given Putin questions only about the investigation. Various questions, from various points of view.” But to prevent that from happening, Putin already has “carefully destroyed the journalistic community of Russia.”