Author Archives: Janne J Suutarinen

Serious journalism is far from self-evident – Interview with prof. Elena Vartanova

“The freedom of press as an ideological construct is an ideal which accountable media should pursue.”

by Katja Lehtisaari & Janne Suutarinen

Elena Vartanova is Full Professor, Dean and Chair in Media Theory and Economics at the Faculty of Journalism, in Lomosonov Moscow State University. Her extensive research focuses on Russian media system, media economics, media theory and journalism in Russia.

Russian Media Lab’s researcher, Doctor of Social Sciences Katja Lehtisaari interviewed professor Vartanova in October 2017. This piece has not been published before, and it has been afterwards completed with more recent viewpoints and provides comparisons to the situation with Russian media one year ago.

How would you describe the greatest challenges and problems at the moment in the Russian media industry?

Vartanova thinks the problems of the Russian media industry, as a particular branch of economy, are similar to what exist also outside of Russia. The cash flows and new investments are getting fewer, and the changing market is still very unstable.

“The distribution of advertising is changing and the internet as a platform is challenging the traditional distribution of advertising. The newspapers’ income for advertising has dramatically decreased in recent years. This is relevant not only for the national press, but also for the regional press.”

The transform in media markets has struck also for example magazines, as well as produced shifts in the overall habbits of media consumers. The general monthly audience of Yandex, Russia’s most popular internet search engine, topped the numbers of ‘Pervyi kanal’ (Channel 1), the leader of the country’s top three main television channels in 2012.To Vartanova, this is an indicator of the growing importance of advertising.

The second challenge of Russian media industry would be legislative one, Vartanova says. Continue reading

Lassila’s brief report on the 50th ASEEES Convention in Boston

by Jussi Lassila

“All in all, Boston was definitely worth visiting this year.”

The annual ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies) Convention was held this year in Boston on 6–9 December. This was the 50th convention that has been organised while ASEEES celebrated its 70th anniversary. More than 650 panels, roundtables and group meetings on all disciplines related to the field within four days resulted as approximately 45 parallel sessions throughout the convention. Yet, all these events with hundreds of participants found their place almost without notice in the huge Marriot Copley conference hotel in the center of Boston. For an individual participant it was, of course, rather difficult to choose an interesting one from the number of compelling panel descriptions even with a relatively strict thematic focus. I picked up those that discussed Russiaʼs political development, the regimeʼs survival strategies, civil society prospects, political communication and propaganda as well as foreign policy.

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Media and Religion: fighting for power or seeking common good? – Interview with Victor Khroul

by Janne Suutarinen

“Unfortunately, ‘zone of accordance’ or ‘zone of tolerance’ in the terms of religion dialogue in Russia seems to be moving away more and more from the present time.”

Associate professor Victor Khroul (Moscow State University, Journalism Faculty) has extensively studied media and religion in Russia. He is the author of the book Religion and Media in Russia: Functional and Ethical Perspectives (2012) and currently he is researching religious factor in mass communication with focus on religious content in the texts in the net.

Why did this topic spark your interest?

Religion belongs to maybe the deepest level of personal understanding of the world and personal convictions. For many, it is the core of identity. Therefore, I found interesting to study the role of media in the formation of religious identity in religious practice.

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Russian Media Lab researchers at two local media events in St. Petersburg

by Olga Dovbysh

Russian Media Lab researcher Olga Dovbysh together with RML’s partner Kamilla Nigmatullina moderated a roundtable “Local media as strategic resource of authorities” at St. Petersburg State University on 23 November.

Dovbysh shared her observations on how authorities in Russia’s towns use local groups on social network sites to communicate with citizens, get information on local events and control local media. Vladimir Kozlov, professor from South Federal University (Rostov-on-Don), mentioned that today both local media and authorities are forced to go digital and communicate in digital space.

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Russian Media Lab’s program at the ASEEES Convention, December 6–9

Russian Media Lab will host a panel at the ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) convention in Boston. The panel will take place on Friday 6th 12.30–2.15 pm, in room Wellesley, 3. See the convention’s full program here.

RML’s panel is connected to the project’s upcoming edited volume ‘Freedom of Expression in Russia’s New Mediasphere’ (Katja Lehtisaari & Mariëlle Wijermars, eds.). See the program below.

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The ‘Occupation of Runet’ – Kremlin’s campaign to tighten the screw online

by Janne Suutarinen

Professor Markku Lonkila (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) along with Larisa Shpakovskaya (HSE, Russia) and Philip Torchinsky (independent researcher) have studied the Russian government’s measures of bringing Runet under tighter control after the social media -fueled protests in the beginning of 2010’s. The adoption of new regulations was followed by increasing punishments toward certain Runet users, and now the oppositional voices online are quite muffled.

Lonkila, Shpakovskaya and Torchinsky.

What is the evolution of Runet and its present state of affairs seen from the viewpoint of state control?

The protest wave in Russia 2011–2013 completely changed the Kremlin’s attitude towards social media. Before the protests the Kremlin had counted on the control of nationwide TV channels, and Russian-language section of the internet had been practically free from regulation.

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New memorandum tackles internet piracy in Russia – Scholar’s Comments from Mariëlle Wijermars

by Janne Suutarinen

In the beginning of November, BBC News announced that three major Russian internet companies, Yandex, Mail.ru and Rambler, have teamed up with leading media production companies  to sign a memorandum combating piracy. The guarantor of the agreement’s execution will be Roskomnadzor, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media.

The memorandum stipulates that the media  will create a register of websites hosting pirated materials. The internet service companies oblige themselves to consult the register every five minutes and remove listed websites from their search engine results within six hours.

According to BBC News, the copyright holders that have signed the memorandum are Gazprom-Media, National Media Group, Channel One, All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), STS-Media, Association of Film and Television Producers, Internet Video Association (online cinema association), video platform Ruform, as well as Yandex-owned Kinopoisk.ru. Other copyright holders are welcomed to join the agreement.

Russian Media Lab’s Mariëlle Wijermars (PhD), who conducts research on media and internet governance in Russia, thinks the memorandum is an interesting case because it creates a new mechanism of internet content control that operates outside of existing legal structures.

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Fine lines in Kremlin’s fog – German journalist Thielko Grieß on his experiences of working in Russia

By Olga Dovbysh & Janne Suutarinen

“You have lots of freedom of speech in the internet and in social media, but there exists a fine line somewhere. Nobody knows exactly where it is, or if one has crossed it or not.”

Since February 2017, Thielko Grieß has worked as a correspondent and presenter of Deutschlandradio in Moscow.

Thielko Grieß

Grieß studied Cultural Studies, Political Science and Communication and Media Studies in Leipzig, Jena and Ljubljana and then gained his first journalistic experience as a news editor and reporter at MDR (Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk). In 2009 he was part of the founding team of the newsroom of DRadio Wissen. After the traineeship Grieß worked as a presenter of the program “Morning information” (Informationen am Morgen) on Deutschlandfunk and was one of the station’s external reporters.

Having journalistic experience in two different media systems, in the interview Grieß reflects on peculiarities of journalistic work in Russia.

What are your reflections of working as a journalist in Moscow in comparison to your journalistic experience in other countries?

I have worked as a journalist in various countries but for a longer period of time only in two: Russia and Germany. Because of that, I would like to compare the aforementioned.

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There are challenges in Russian media studies – RML at the Aleksanteri Conference 2018

By Janne Suutarinen

The 18th Aleksanteri Conference “Liberation – Freedom – Democracy? 1918–1968–2018” again brought together hundreds of scholars and enthusiasts of Russian and Eastern-European studies. In the conference, Russian Media Lab hosted one roundtable, one plenary session and six panels. The project’s manager and Aleksanteri Institute’s director, professor Markku Kangaspuro was pleased with Russian Media Lab’s part in the program.

Was the Russian Media Lab stream at the conference successful?

“Definitely successful: the project got more visibility and all of our panels attracted good amount of researchers.”

In your perspective, what were the stream’s main contributions to the conference?

“The project really raised up our research topics for the whole conference – not only in the panels but also in the plenary session. And we can’t forget Mariëlle’s contribution as the coordinator of the whole conference.”

Did there come up new ideas for the project?

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Revolutions and corruption – A glimpse at post-Soviet press freedom in Armenia and Moldova

by Janne Suutarinen

On 12 October the Media Self-Regulatory Organizations Network (MSON) gathered for a meeting at the Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki. The network brings together the media self-regulatory bodies of seven post-Soviet countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. MSON is supported by Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AICPE).

The network was created in 2011 as a platform for regional and cross-country cooperation and exchange of experience and best practices. The main output of their work is to influence public and professional opinions through recommendations and statements, for example on how to confront propaganda or political pressuring.

Russian Media Lab interviewed two of the meeting participants: Boris Navasardian, Armenia, and Viorica Zaharia, Moldova. Based on their descriptions, it seems that Armenia is taking a step towards wider press freedom, while Moldovan free journalism still struggles under political pressures.


Boris Navasardian is the president of Yerevan Press Club and member of Media Ethics Observatory, the Armenian media self-regulatory body founded in 2007. Navasardian thinks that the recent Armenian Velvet Revolution of 2018 has opened positive sights for Armenian press freedom. However, the battle against corruption has brought also a new economic challenge for media.

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