Foreign Media In Russia

Sigh. The Duma, the parliament of the Russian Federation, is at it again, passing stupid laws that make zero sense. Truth be told, the Duma has passed some decent laws in the past, and hopefully will do so in the future, but I cannot condone this latest bit of stupidity. The Guardian has an interesting article on it. (And yes, I know The Guardian is quite anti-Russian, but I still like this particular article.)

The Russian parliament has passed a law barring foreign investors from owning more than a 20% stake in the country’s media outlets. The move comes amid a propaganda war with the west over the Ukraine crisis.

The legislation, which was passed by the state Duma without debate on Friday with a vote of 430-2, forbids international organisations and foreign citizens, companies and governments from founding or holding more than a 20% stake in Russian media businesses. Although it will come into force at the start of 2016, media owners will have until 1 February 2017 to bring their holdings into compliance.

Foreign ownership of radio and television outlets, as well as print publications with a circulation of more than one million, was previously limited to 50%. The law will affect a wide variety of publications, including the country’s leading business daily, Vedomosti, the Russian versions of glossy magazines such as Esquire, GQ and Cosmopolitan, and television channels such as Disney and Eurosport.

But this, to me, is the worst part of the article:

The editors and publishers of media outlets independent from state control have said the new legislation will further reduce the diversity of opinion in the Russian media. Russian Forbes editor Elmar Murtazayev said the publication would probably close if the law passed, since its German parent company Axel Springer did not want to sell it to a Russian owner.

Forbes Russia is one of my favorite publications. One of my favorite people ever, Paul Klebnikov, started it in the early 2000s. He was an excellent investigative journalist and he died for the magazine. (He was gunned down in Moscow on July 9, 2004, at the age of 41.) Under his tutelage, the magazine published not-so-flattering pieces on the oligarchs in Russia, and he turned one of these pieces into a book. Another book of his, available only in Russian, profiled a Chechen rebel leader.

Basically, if Forbes Russia shuts down, I will cry. It will be such a shame for a publication like that to be driven out of business from such a useless law.