Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Tikhon Dzyadko is a famous media personality in Russia. The born-and-raised Moscovite is a popular reporter and host of the radio station Echo of Moscow and the cable TV station Dozhd. 'Because most media are owned by the state, many people remain loyal to Putin. A mere 4 to 5% of media in Russia are independent. That is why most Russians only hear the Kremlin-story,' says the young journalist to Free Press Unlimited in Moscow. On May 3rd he is one of our guests at the Free Press Unlimited event: 'Pointers from Putin'- studying the principles of propaganda. 'Being independent is our highest priority'

'Our highest priority is to be independent'
'Many Russians tune in to Dozht TV and think: 'that's an opposition-minded channel'. That's not true, we are independent!', emphasizes Dzyadko. The fact that opposition members, activists as well as ministers are frequent guests at his show A Hard Day's Night, illustrates his independence as a journalist. According to Dzyadko, this is exactly the difference from state media, who only invite guests to their programs who are sympathetic to the government. Dzyadko: 'Independence is the number one priority in journalism.' But as long as most media are in state hands, it is unlikely that Russians will change their beliefs – especially if you take into account that independent newspapers and cable TV are hardly available outside of big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. 

Independent media at stake
Russian media that want to remain independent are struggling – not only because their journalists are constantly being exposed to violence, but also because there is a lack of commercial advertising. Big corporations are cautious about sponsoring independent media, fearing they might lose Putin's support. The influence of the former KGB agent seems substantial: 'Since his re-election, several critical journalists have been fired.'

What is the next step: 'thought crime?'
Also the opposition is suffering from Putin's reelection: there are several court cases pending against members of the opposition, and recently demonstrators started to risk extremely high fines, Dzyadko explains. Even with a press card in his hands, the Dozhd host was violently thrown into a riot van. In one of his blogs, he has written that in contemporary Russia people can even be arrested for sitting in a cafe or walking down the street: 'As a journalist I can not pick a side, but if people can be arrested for taking a walk with more than two persons? That's something I will vehemently oppose.' He wonders what the next step is: 'Thought crime?'

Dzyadko 3
Nevertheless, Dzyadko does not mince his words. Together with his brothers Timofei and Filipp, also journalists, he discusses the weekly news in the talk show Dzyadko 3. In a Soviet-era style living room they brainstorm about the impact and deeper meaning of happenings in Russia. During the period when there were lots of rallies against Putin's re-election in 2012, the visions 'the Dzyadkos' expressed in their program gave people an incentive to keep demonstrating.

Internet and middle class are Russia's hope
'I am so angry when people call Russia a young democracy: Russia is turning into a dictatorship, not a democracy. Sometimes I have a feeling the Soviet era is making a comeback in this country.' But Dzyadko also believes in hope for the future. Russia has a growing middle class: they have become more outspoken and aware, he has written in one of his blogs. He also believes in the potential of the Internet, where independent information can still be freely exchanged: 'The number of web users in Russia is around 40 to 50%, but the number is rapidly growing. It is still too early, but within ten years the Internet can offer an important alternative for state-owned television.'