Russia: Covering the “Russian March”

The “Russian March” rally by the Leo Tolstoy monument at Devichye Polye in Moscow. (Photo by LJ user hegtor, taken from the staircase of a 16-storied apartment building nearby. More of hegtor‘s Nov. 4 photos are here, here, and here.)

A few thousand ultranationalists rallied at Devichye Polye in Moscow Saturday morning. About 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators counter-rallied at Bolotnaya Square later that day. Both events were heavily guarded by riot police.

Due to the worldwide LJ outage, live blog coverage of the controversial “Russian March” (which took place not just in Moscow but in other Russian cities as well) was scarce. The mainstream media, however, seem to have done even worse. Below is part of a discussion on Russian journalism that took place on the blog of LJ user plushev, a Radio Ekho Moskvy host (RUS):


Freedom of Speech

Information blockade of the “Russian March” has been declared on federal TV channels. At least, until the evening news, when they'll tell us how a “provocation by a few nationalists” has failed.

I was watching Vesti-24 channel (at which I'd been lucky [to work]) at 6 pm. The whole newscast – not a word about the marches, only the celebrations all around, and Putin. There was an excellent intro to the video about [the president]: “After laying flowers, Putin answered questions of the cadets.” But on the video, it's the cadets who are answering Putin's questions. This isn't the funnest part, though. As they talk about celebrations, they are using a quote from [Moscow mayor Yuri] Luzhkov, who is speaking about possible disturbances, “all those instigators” and “provocations” – and it totally looks like Luzhkov has gone nuts: everyone's celebrating, and he is talking some nonsense.

wombatik: […] Let's imagine a semi-ideal situation. The ideal would be for you to produce a newscast at an absolutely independent channel, where there is no editorial policy in favor of these or those [political] forces. And you have an event – the “Russian March.” Will you include a story about it? It seems as if you have to, since there is the fact of it, which belongs in the informational picture of the day. But how can you do it so that the viewers, after watching the piece about the march, don't come running to join the demonstrators? Should history segments be included? I really can't imagine what to do in a situation like this. What would you do?

plushev: Are you serious? Imagine that a few thousand people took to the streets in London. Doesn't matter what for. In any case – it's an event. I'd like to see a TV company that would decide against showing it.

Me, I'm telling about it at Ekho Moskvy anyway, without editing the information out. Why should TV be any different?

wombatik: What do you mean, am I serious? That I don't know how to present it and under what dressing? The problem is I understand that it is an event. But I wouldn't want to [advertise] the “March.” At “my” TV station, this item would be given with some kind of analytical supplement. Like, this is this and that, this is where [the origins] are, and this is what the result of something like this was in certain countries. And would you present it just like it is, the way, say, it's presented on Ekho now?

plushev: Yes, I would present it the way it's presented on Ekho.

The problem is you treat news as PR. You've said it yourself. And you're not the first one who is genuinely surprised: on TV, they're good at beating this attitude into you, I've seen it already. And here are the results: a PR person is always thinking whether to include or not what's considered a news item. A news person, on the other hand, thinks only about whether something is news or not.

I don't understand at all why this issue is raised at all: “to say it in a way that wouldn't [inspire] people to rush to the march.” This is not the goal of the news, to think if people will rush there or not. The main thing is to tell about what's going on.

Just imagine that today many people were walking next to a mob of potentially dangerous, unbalanced, aggressive persons. If someone (let's say with the wrong skin color) got injured because, for example, he unknowingly happened at Komsomolskaya [subway station, where the “Russian March” was supposed to begin), those who hadn't told him about the potential danger would share some blame for his sufferings.



A very short video of the “Russian March” participants; their slogans: “Russians onward!”, “Long live Russia!” and “Death to the occupants!” – by yakovlev106.


There was plenty of inflammatory content at the Moscow rally, and a little bit of actual violence, with at least two cases that involved photojournalists.

One of them, Oleg Klimov, is also a blogger, and he mentions the attack in part 2 of his three-part photo report (RUS, Antifa and Fascists, Journalists and Fascists, Leo Tolstoy and Fascists):

[photo omitted]

I did end up getting punched in the nose. By the fascists. One was just passing by, approached me from behind and did a hook right into the camera while I was shooting. It didn't really hurt, but was disgusting. […] When there's no one to beat, it seems, they are beating journalists. […]

[photo omitted: three young demonstrators urinating under a tree]

In part 1, Klimov writes (RUS) about the antifascist counter-rally that he attended as well:

[photo omitted: “Nuremberg is a hero-city.”

I've always thought that we don't have fascists. Turns out we don't have anti-fascists. The rally at Bolotnaya Square was a worthless event. Journalists, not understanding the difference between “antifa” and “fa” fighters, attacked the masked teenagers, assuming that they were fascists. But they turned out to be nothing more than a militant group of antifascists, and many were surprised when they began to chant: “Fascism won't come through!” Our anti-fascists are elderly people, liberals and demagogues, but they are being replaced by the generation of antifascists of “direct action,” as it has already happened in the West.

[photo omitted: “Fascism won't come through.”

LJ user karimova witnessed an attack on another photojournalist – and got verbally assaulted herself (RUS):

Yesterday, at the [well-known disgusting event] some Russian [Cossack] beat up a female photojournalist – because she was photographing him.

When the riot police was seizing the Cossack, he was yelling that the girl attacked him first. A choir of [elderly women] was echoing him. When I interfered with the words “You are lying,” the [elderly women] choir switched over to me and diagnosed me right away: “[female Jew]” (!!!) and “prostitute” (!).

Organizers tried to look decent. [Sergei Baburin]'s phrase that “you shouldn't raise your arms in a pseudo-Roman greeting because there are journalists here” characterizes the spirit of the event very well. Baburin didn't say that it's shameful IN GENERAL for a Russian person to do it – he said it shouldn't be done when journalists are around.

Crazy [old women]. My God, it seems as if it was a revelation for them yesterday that the poets who had made a huge contribution to the Russian culture, [Osip Mandelshtam] and [Joseph Brodsky], were ethnic Jews. They refuse to accept it. Just as they refuse to come to terms with a simple thought that all Tatars, Bashkirs, Jews, Chechens, Dagestanis living in Russia – are as Russian as the majority of us, because they speak the same language, read the same literature and obey the same laws. […]

Anyway, people who gathered at the so-called “Russian March” hate Russia and refuse to accept it the way it is, and instead they are [obsessed with their own genes and genealogy].

I'm sorry that my acquaintances took part in [this], too. I hope they'll change their minds.

And yes. Luckily, the [disgusting] event was a failure, basically. The pathetic 1,000-1,500 of those who showed up, and of them at least a third were journalists and another third were totally sick and mentally unbalanced elderly people. Here's all of your “Russian rebellion.”


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