Deputy chairwoman of the parliamentary committee for the national affairs, Svetlana Smirnova answered the questions from PRAVDA.Ru correspondent.
Question: Miss Smirnova, some analysts believe that the current situation in Russia, connected with the scandals with television channels, looks like its 1930s. Is it really so scary?
Answer: I do not have a fleeing that we are somewhere around the 1930s. It is more about the problem of the mass media - the media are not responsible for the things they do. We all know that they are forming the public opinion. But is their information really true to fact? I do not think we are close to the situation we had in the 1930s now.
Q: Why were our media outlets helping the enemy during the first Chechen campaign? They were actually competing with each other – who is going to give more negative news about the Russian army.
A: Here it goes about the civil position of some of our journalists and media outlets. Each human being must have the sense of the civil duty, patriotism. Some of the journalists were reporting about the war in Chechnya the way that was not in Russia’s interests, to put it mildly. I would like our media to be objective in their work, taking account of Russia’s national interests, not depending on whether they are the state or private media.
Q: Look at the work of the western media and how they report about the events in Afghanistan – why is it different here in Russia?
A: In my opinion there is no single joint state policy towards mass media in our country. We passed a good law about media in 1992, we proclaimed the freedom of speech in the Russian Federation. But some people perceived it as the act of permissiveness. Freedom of speech and permissiveness are two different notions. I can not imagine the American media expressing their opinions against the politics of the United States. Any action of either the president or the government is explained to the citizens in detail. This is right. We have to learn something from America in this respect – the way that they are bringing up the sense of patriotism, the civil position of each citizen of their country. We do not have that for the time being. We had the parliamentary hearings on February 7, devoted to the subject of the state national policy and the mass media. Even at the hearings it was noticed that there was a certain trend in the news reports. Furthermore, in chase of the rating or sensation we forget about the most important thing – we all live in Russia, so we must protect the interests of our home. If we want to raise our country, then the journalists and mass media are supposed to substantiate Putin's policy as the president of the country, as well as the policy of the government. But I think that it is the state to blame here, rather than the media, since the state is setting up the legal field. The main thing is if the state is interested in the objective reports about this or that piece of news? To what extent is the state interested in the stability of the country?
Q: Maybe the things, which are currently happening with the media, appeared because of the contradictions between the oligarchs?
A: You have to know it for sure to say either yes or no. I can suppose that it was so. Nevertheless, the government, represented by the Ministry for Press in this case, has not finished something in order to make the media outlets carry responsibility for their own actions and feel protected at the same time. There are currently two new bills being prepared - on the state mass media and on the public mass media. These are also the steps, which are aimed at the establishment of the system of relations between the state and the mass media.
Q: What do you think should be mentioned in those laws?
A: We are not supposed to refuse from the orientation that we have now –to make our society more democratic. We proclaimed the freedom of speech, so it is supposed to be. But at the same time the rules of the game must be precise. Both the state and the media must know their rules and obligations. Responsibility – first and foremost. There is no newspaper or television channel in America that can call a black-skinned person a Negro. They know that if they do so, it will lead to the tough sanctions on the part of the state bodies. We do not have such responsibility in Russia. That is why I think that freedom of speech is not permissiveness, when you can say whatever you want, it is responsibility for each word that you say, for each thing that you do.
Q: What do you think about the popular TV journalist Marianna Maksimovskaya, who could use the vulgar folk songs in her programs, addressing them for vice premier Valentina Matvienko, making fun of her homeless children program?
A: I can set out my indignation on that. As a woman, as a mother, I believe that this is out of the question, it is inadmissible. We must express our point of view, but we keep silent, accepting it. The problem starts in the Russian parliament. Let’s take Vladimir Zhirinovsky, for example, the leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). You can respect him, or you can not, but when he says disgraceful words about Russia, his colleagues shake hands with him. This is the way we create this situation. We think that if people can say such things, then it is allowed to do it. The worst thing is that we allow them to treat us that way. If we watch the television that we have now, or read the newspapers, then there is an impression that we are living in the world full of violence, brutality and pornography, with catastrophes happening everywhere around. We are creating the cult of violence now. If we recollect the Soviet era, there were plane crashes and a lot of other tragic events there, but the information on them was incomplete. I do not know if it is good or bad, but all those TV programs about the car accidents, murders and assassinations, fires – they are forming the public conscience on the ground of suppression and fear. A citizen can not be a full citizen now. But at the same time it just so happens that we allow all those things to happen.
Q: Who do you think gains profit from it? Maybe those western countries, which back up our media outlets?
A: I think that Vladimir Putin did the right thing, when he rejected the law, in which the Western mass media had the right to control the Russian home media outlets. I doubt if there is any country in the world that wishes to see Russia as strong, powerful country. They could not break us during the Great Patriotic War, but nowadays they can use mass media and gain the control over the minds of the people.
Q: What would you introduce in the law about mass media?
A: The new articles, which would envisage the responsibility for stirring up the international, religious, social conflicts between the people. We have a lot of good laws, but the problem is that they are not observed very often. This is a trouble for our country, when we say this and do something different. I would like our government to listen to the voice of the people. I am not rejecting my own responsibility, for I am a deputy of the State Duma. But I have to acknowledge that our efforts are not enough. There is a saying that each nation has the government is deserves. I hope and I believe that our President Vladimir Putin will be able to change the situation in the country and create the conditions, so that we could be proud of the country we live in.
Svetlana Smirnova was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/13/37012.html