Good News! The News is Good!

American bloggers turn a story about the curtailment Russian free speech into a domestic joke.

New managers of Russia’s largest independent radio network told their reporters that 50 percent of the station’s news about the country must be “positive,” according to an article yesterday in New York Times.

Not only that, but the new leadership, which consists of Kremlin allies, said opposition leaders are not to be mentioned in broadcasts and the United States is to be “portrayed as an enemy.”

Journalists at the Russian News Service will now be forced to carefully monitor their broadcasts. “When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

While some bloggers voiced great concern over this injury to journalistic freedom, many used the news as an easy chance to rip on a wholly unrelated but always popular topic: the U.S. government.

“Controlling the news has always been a priority of the Bush Administration,” wrote LeisureGuy on Later On. “How they must envy their Russian colleagues.”

Cliff Hecter was quick with a quip on his blog. “No wonder Bush liked what he saw in Putin’s soul,” he said.

Despite the seriousness of the news, the wisecracks seemed irresistible.

“Lucky thing American journalists aren’t asked to think of positive things to say about their country,” remarked Van Helsing on Moonbattery. “At least it would make for shorter newscasts.”

American media outlets weren’t saved from insults either.

“Obey or it’s off to the gulag, or a nice Litvinenko cocktail for you,” wrote the author of The Bullwinkle Blog. “Not much different here in the U.S., The Left here would do the same thing with FOX News if they could and they’re doing everything in their power to be able to. Just ask Don Imus what happens when you cross one of the lines the Left (which he was a member of) sets.”

But some were genuinely concerned at the continued erosion of media freedom in Russia and were quick to theorize.

“Most will charge that the increasing media control in Russia is directly coming from the Kremlin,” Sean Guillory speculated on Sean’s Russia Blog. “I don’t think so. And neither does the Times. Something else far more sinister is at work. Namely, the elite is using its financial and political power to ensure their continued existence. Control the message and you control minds.”

Similar messages preached impending doom.

“The Soviets are moving against press freedom, religious freedom, and freedom of association,” stated a blogger on Common Sense Journal. “Sadly, they are turning back to their old evil ways. We need to keep track of their aging arsenal of nuclear weapons so they don’t get into the hands of terrorists, and we also need to pressure them to respect freedoms.”

And others reflected on the sacrifices they’d make for journalistic liberty.

Lisa Sabin of Right Voices admitted,”I hate to say it, but give me Keith Olbermann on air at MSNBC anytime over a government that hand picks what kind of news and commentary I, as a citizen, am allowed to view and hear.”

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Christina Hernandez is a CJR intern.