The Media Today

The media today: Russian journalists join #MeToo, as parliament looks away

March 23, 2018

Questions about the staying power of the #MeToo movement—triggered by reporting on Harvey Weinstein from The New York Times and The New Yorker—began circulating almost as soon as the watershed moment began. Reactions to reports of sexual harassment in the West have largely been met by positive, if not horrified, reactions from readers, celebrities, and politicians. And in many cases, they have come with tangible consequences for badly behaving men. But in Russia, where a senior lawmaker is accused of having groped and forcibly kissed female journalists, the government response has largely been mocking.

Yesterday, nearly two dozen Russian news outlets declared boycotts on the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, after an ethics committee cleared a lawmaker accused of sexually harassing female journalists of any wrongdoing. Some outlets announced that its reporters would no longer professionally interact with Leonid E. Slutsky, a member of a right-wing nationalist group called the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, while others, such as radio outlet Ekho Moskvy, withdrew its reporters from the chamber entirely. The station’s editor in chief told The New York Times that it no longer considered the chamber safe for journalists of any sex. At least three other outlets will also remove its reporters from the chamber. The boycott is a notable show of unity among journalists, and one that actively makes their jobs more difficult. In the US, as women stepped forward in the swell of #MeToo, prominent journalists were investigated and in many cases suspended and fired. Calls and commitments to making newsrooms safer were plentiful. But such radical opposition as a boycott in response to gender-based harassment and violence has yet to take hold here—in any industry.

Related: What we found when we asked newsrooms about sexual harassment

Accusations against Slutsky made by two unnamed journalists were first reported in February by an independent broadcaster called TV Rain. Ekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy chief editor of the New York-based, Russian language outlet RTVI, came forward later that month publicly accusing Slutsky. In all, three female journalists eventually stepped forward with allegations against Slutsky. Kotrikadze recounted her experience to CNN, saying that Slutsky invited her into his office and without provocation pushed her against a wall, attempting to kiss her. At the time, she worked for a Georgian television outlet. In another case caught on tape last March, Slutsky asked Farida Rustamova, a reporter with the BBC’s Russian service, to be his mistress.

Slutsky has denied all allegations, and took to Facebook to mock the women, accusing them of painting him as a Russian Weinstein and calling their testimonies “cheap” and a “provocation.” The ethics committee concluded its investigation, finding that Slutsky had not violated any behavioral norms and noted that the women had not come forward immediately after the incidents, suggesting their timing was suspicious given the upcoming presidential election. A spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin declined to comment Thursday during a call with reporters.

Whether the #MeToo moment will translate into lasting, structural changes in journalism remains to be seen. But it’s worth paying attention to—and connecting—the progress (or lack of it) women are making in other countries. Problems of sexual harassment cross industries, mediums, and borders—and the fight to eradicate it must necessarily be global. Below, more on the Russian media boycott and other #MeToo developments:

  • Canceled media credentials: Bloomberg’s Ksenia Galouchko and Stepan Kravchenko look at the Russian parliament’s response to the women’s allegations—and threats from lawmakers to revoke the media credentials of outlets who have pledged to boycott the State Duma.
  • Find a new job: Newsweek reported earlier this month on a crude suggestion from Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament. When the women who say Slutsky sexually harassed them first came forward, Volodin told them that if working at the State Duma was dangerous, they should “change jobs.”
  • Earlier this year, CJR’s Jon Allsop reported on efforts from female journalists in France to win equal pay for equal work. The so-called “Weinstein effect” has had global consequences, and includes not just sexual harassment, but the larger undercurrents of sexism that dictate women’s experience in workplaces all over the world.
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Other notable stories

  • The New York Times’s visual investigations team used surveillance videos to piece together an eerie, weeklong timeline showing how Stephen Paddock amassed an arsenal of weapons in a room at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay hotel in the days before he killed 58 people and injured hundreds more last year. The black and white videos, which have no sound, show the killer wheeling more than 20 suitcases and bags into the hotel room, taking breaks to gamble in the hotel’s casino.
  • For CJR, Jonathan Peters analyzes the unusual legal footing at the center of a lawsuit filed against Fox News by the parents of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered in 2016. Fox News ran a deeply flawed story positing that Rich was the source of the DNC emails famously leaked by WikiLeaks and that he’d been killed in retaliation. That story, later retracted, was parroted by Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and other Fox hosts. Rich’s family is suing for the harder-to-prove emotional distress rather than libel, which isn’t an option post-death.
  • The Daily Beast dropped a big scoop last night, revealing that Guccifier 2.0, the hacker who claimed responsibility for the DNC email leak, is a Russian military intelligence officer. The news moves the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election closer to Putin—and closer to Trump.
  • MarketWatch reported on a recent spike in journalism school applications, an ironic Trump Bump given the president’s fondness for attacks on the press. But in Chicago, cuts to high school journalism programs in schools serving minority students could disrupt this new pipeline and blow a much-needed opportunity for more racial diversity among our ranks. In 1991, nearly all Chicago Public Schools had a school newspaper. By 2006, just 60 percent did. Southside Weekly’s Ashvini Kartik-Narayan reports on how high school teachers working on the South Side of Chicago with limited resources are pushing to get students of color interested in journalism. In Washington, student journalists celebrated a new law that bans prior review of articles as a condition of publication in public schools, granting them the same editorial independence professional journalists enjoy.
  • And student journalists from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will guest edit the US edition of The Guardian for 48 hours, ahead of the student-organized March for Our Lives tomorrow in Washington, DC.
  • In a special report for CJR, Simona Foltyn writes about the tragic death of British-American journalist Christopher Allen, who was killed last summer while on assignment in South Sudan. Foltyn writes about the dangerous precedent set by the South Sudanese government in the wake of Allen’s death: “In calling him a “white rebel,” the government denied Allen the status of a civilian he deserved under international law, thus absolving its soldiers of responsibility.” It’s a cautionary tale worth considering as outlets continue to wrestle with balancing fast-moving American political coverage with the important, but sometimes overlooked, international coverage of conflicts that has become harder and more dangerous to report on.
  • For the Texas Observer, Gus Bova looks at how well the media covered the Austin serial bombings, examining how news outlets and social media users sometimes made a mess of the fast-changing developments.
  • Former Playboy model Karen McDougal gave an exclusive interview to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night, discussing her alleged 10-month sexual affair with the president.

Related: Sexual harassment in the newsroom

Alexandria Neason was CJR’s staff writer and Senior Delacorte Fellow. Recently, she became an editor and producer at WNYC’s Radiolab.