Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 21 (of 30)
Political Environment: 33 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 24 (of 30)
Total Score: 78 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Media freedom continued to decline in Russia as the Kremlin further restricted independent news reporting and public dissent while preparing for a stage managed parliamentary election that was held in December. President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian, corrupt and lawless style of rule appeared set to continue at the end of his second term. A week after the flawed December parliamentary election, Putin endorsed First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as his presidential successor for an orchestrated presidential election to be held in 2008 and Medvedev's reciprocated, announcing he would name Putin his prime minister.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, the Kremlin used the country's politicized and corrupt criminal justice system to harass and prosecute independent journalists. Throughout 2007, journalists faced dozens of criminal cases and hundreds of civil cases, particularly in retaliation for reporting on the opposition party Other Russia. Police officers in Samara and Nizhny Novgorod raided the regional bureaus of the independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, confiscated their computers and prosecutors opened politicized criminal cases relating to alleged software piracy. In July, the rubber-stamp parliament approved a series of amendments to the criminal code expanding the country's vague anti-extremism laws that are used to suppress critics of the Kremlin and encourage self-censorship. The Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy received over a dozen official warnings from prosecutors, media regulators and the Federal Security Service for broadcasting allegedly "extremist" statements. In May, immigration officials at a Moscow airport denied entry to Natalya Morar, a Moldovan journalists working for the Moscow weekly magazine Novoye Vremya, after she published articles about high-level government officials involved in money laundering and illegal campaign funding.

Russia remained one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the media. In 2007, two journalists' deaths were deemed "suicides" by authorities: Ivan Saforonov, a correspondent with the business daily Kommersant, who fell out of window of his Moscow apartment building in March just as he was planning to report on politically sensitive Russian weapons sales to Iran and Syria; and Vyacheslav Ifanov, a television cameraman for the independent station Novoye Televideniye Aleiska in Siberia, who was declared to have died from a carbon monoxide overdose in April despite having wounds on his body and received death threats from military officials. The trial of two suspects in the July 2004 murder of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov was delayed throughout 2007 because one of the suspects went into hiding. Over a dozen other murders remained uninvestigated but, in a rare example of accountability, five gang members in the city of Kazan were convicted in August of murdering Novaya Gazeta journalist Igor Domnikov in May 2000.

Journalists remained unable to cover the news freely, particularly with regard to contentious topics – like human rights abuses in the North Caucasus, government corruption, organized crime and police torture – and were subject to a variety of abuses. In March, police in Nizhny Novgorod detained nine journalists and foreign correspondents – and physically assaulted three of them – trying to cover an opposition rally. In May, police detained three foreign correspondents in a Moscow airport to prevent them from flying to Samara to cover an opposition rally. Journalists who criticized federal and regional authorities also faced a risk of imprisonment, with three remaining behind bars at the end of 2007: Boris Stomakhin, editor of the monthly Moscow newspaper Radikalnaya Politika; Anatoly Sardayev, editor of the weekly Saransk newspaper Mordoviya Segodnya ; and Nikolai Andrushchenko, editor of the St. Petersburg weekly Novy Peterburg. Authorities also revived the Soviet-era tradition of temporary psychiatric detentions in order to silence two regional journalists who criticized local authorities – Vladimir Chugunov from the town of Solnechnogorsk and Larisa Arap from the city of Murmansk. Some journalists were forced to flee the country as a result of aggressive harassment by the Federal Security Service and other government agencies. Two journalists who worked for the Associated Press and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in the North Caucasus – Fatima Tlisova and Yuri Bagrov – received political asylum in the United States while a third journalist – Yelena Tregubova, a reporter for the Moscow business daily Kommersant – fled to the United Kingdom after publicly criticizing the Kremlin's media restriction.

Authorities continued to exert significant influence on media outlets and news content through a vast state media empire – the leading television networks Channel One, Rossiya, and NTV; the news agencies ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti; the national radio stations Radio Mayak and Radio Rossiya; the international English language broadcaster Russia Today; along with thousands of regional newspapers, radio stations and television channels – that filled the airwaves with pro-Kremlin propaganda, particularly ahead of the flawed December parliamentary elections. Diversity continued declining as private companies loyal to the Kremlin and regional authorities purchased influential private newspapers and most media outlets remained dependent on state subsidies as well as government printing, distribution and transmission facilities. Lively but cautious political debate was increasingly limited to glossy weekly magazines and news websites only available to urban, educated and affluent audiences. With online media developing rapidly and an estimated 25 percent of the population now online, the Federal Security Service continued widespread monitoring of emails and Web posting while government officials harassed some news websites and federal authorities debated introducing new legal restrictions on the internet.

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