Russian Media and the Government: Telling Lies

The Moscow theatre crisis has revived the debate among Russians about the role of the media and their own relationship with a government that claims to be leading them to democracy and security tempered by the rule of law. They are sure someone is being economical with the truth.

The World Today Updated 23 October 2020 Published 1 December 2002 4 minute READ

Jack Thompson

Presenter for Deutsche Welle television, Berlin

Two days after Russian special forces brought this emergency to a violent end, a wizened old man assailed me at a bus stop in northern Moscow. Brandishing a walking stick and pointing to the gigantic Ostankino television tower not a mile away – put out of action in August 2000 by a fire that briefly deprived Russia of its national networks – he shouted, ‘Liars! They’re all liars!’

He might have been harking back even further, to October 1993 when a mob opposed to Boris Yeltsin attacked the tower, leading to a pitched battle with the security forces which left more than sixty dead. But not this time. His anger was directed at the output of Moscow’s TV channels, as they beamed three days of almost non-stop coverage of the hostage crisis across Russia and the rest of the world, with CNN, the BBC and other international broadcasters relaying the pictures. He said he had found the reporting both incredible and distasteful.

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