The Mass Media in post-Soviet Russia location:University of Surrey date:6-8 May 2006
In our paper we explore the tension between the individual right to information (openness of information) and the state’s right to guard information (state secrets) in Russia. While the focus is on nowadays Russia, we start by looking back at the (still recent) past of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, information was considered a privilege rather than a right while secrecy determined the general information climate. In post-Soviet Russia, the right to information is legally guaranteed, censorship is forbidden, and measures are taken to limit the field of ‘state secrets’. In practice, however, access to information is a much quoted problem by journalists and citizens alike. The information climate is still characterized by secrecy rather than by openness. The buzz word of ‘confidential information’ (commercial secrets, state secrets, military secrets,..) replaces earlier references to political or ideological control but is equally open for wide interpretations. In short, the climate of secrecy proofs to be stubborn. This ‘information culture’ strongly determines the environment the mass media have to work in, and have to cope with. In our paper we will illustrate these rather abstract/theoretical observations with lots of concrete situations.