In the latest attack on dissident voices in Russia, popular state-backed television channel NTV broadcasted the second episode of a documentary-style series demonising Russian cultural figures who oppose the government’s policy on Ukraine on Sunday.
The series, Profession: Reporter, features a number of Russian musicians, journalists, writers and entrepreneurs whose political opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s government is viewed as a threat to the country by the state.
Following on from the show’s pilot, which aired two weeks ago, episode two, entitled 17 Friends of the Junta, features a range of well-known Russian cultural figures who have spoken out against Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the government’s policy on Ukraine, including journalist Oleg Kashin, hip-hop artist Noize MC, and writer and poet Dmitry Bykov.
Using the language of Russian state-run media, which regularly refers to the post-revolution government in Ukraine as a “junta”, the programme features clips of each individual with a voice-over detailing their “anti-patriotic” behaviour. Footage of interviews and performances is also interspersed with clips of military action from eastern Ukraine. The series recalls the smear campaigns of Soviet times, which saw cultural figures such as the writer Joseph Brodsky, who was denounced in a 1963 Leningrad newspaper for his “pornographic and anti-Soviet” poetry, dogged by an official campaign to destroy his career.
According to data gathered from media research firm TNS Russia by The Moscow Times, Profession: Reporter was NTV’s most popular show in the week of its debut.
In an interview with The Moscow Times, Alexander Morozov, head of the Moscow Centre for Media Studies, said: “There is currently no opposition. It has been dispersed and destroyed. What the opposition was before is now looking for a new identity and sense of direction.”
He added: “At the same time, there are cultural figures, writers and artists who believe that the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy is too chaotic and could damage the country. Their voices are being heard, and this invites government criticism.”
Once a model of independent media in Russia, NTV quickly earned a reputation as a propaganda machine for the Kremlin after the channel was taken over by state-owned Gazprom Media in 2001. Now, NTV is known for its smear campaigns against journalists and opposition leaders considered disloyal to the Russian government.
Both Russian and Ukrainian cultural figures have been caught in the crossfire of escalating conflict in the region. Last month, the Ukrainian authorities announced that a list banning Russian cultural figures who supported Putin’s position on Ukraine and Crimea was being prepared.
You can find episode one of Profession: Reporter, 13 Friends of the Junta, here, in Russian.