News / Europe

    Analysts See Freedom of Speech in Russia Slowly Eroding

    Feminist Russian punk group Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, Maria Alekhina, front, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, are escorted to a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, August 17, 2012.
    Feminist Russian punk group Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, Maria Alekhina, front, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, are escorted to a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, August 17, 2012.
    Rizwan Syed
    LONDON — Analysts say the "hooliganism" trial in Moscow for three punk musicians who staged a protest in a Russian Orthodox cathedral weakens Russia's freedom of speech and underlines the vast influence in Russia of the Orthodox Church. Three women from a music group they call "Pussy Riot" were found guilty Friday and sentenced to two years in prison for performing a song styled as a prayer for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin. Experts say the case weakens freedom of speech in Russia.

    Analysts say this trial and sentencing is proof that the Russian government will continue with attempts to silence political dissent in the future.

    James Nixey is an analyst with the Royal Institute for International Affairs, the think-tank known as Chatham House. He offers a definition of free speech-Moscow style.

    "Criticism is allowed. However, when it is too widely publicized or when it is too personal, then it is not allowed. When the criticism is of the president himself in particular, when it is of his personal wealth, for example, or corruption aspects, or criminal aspects high up within the regime, then the state begins to crack down. So in other words there are limits," said Nixey.

    Nixey says Russia under the leadership of President Putin, a former KGB officer, is veering toward the old Soviet style of governance.

    "He's been in power for 13 years now and Russia isn't really changing, insofar as it's not becoming a more pluralistic society," said the analyst. "It's not becoming part of the West and it's in some ways retrenching back into the Soviet Union. It's creating its own structures within that post-Soviet space so it very much fits in with Putin's idea as a Eurasianist, if you like - somebody who believes in the value of the Soviet Union space as a continued area."

    Three women from a Russian punk band known as "Pussy Riot" now have been sentenced to two years' imprisonment for a brief anti-Putin protest six months ago on the altar of Moscow's largest orthodox cathedral. The judge who pronounced them guilty, Marina Syrova, said the charge of "hooliganism" was justified because the women "crudely undermined social order" in their protest, which was motivated by religious hatred.

    The women say they were trying to illustrate the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy's strong political support for Putin, who had not yet been re-elected president.

    Nixey says the outcome of the case will encourage the Russian government to further prosecute political dissent.

    "The extent to which I think some of those opposition leaders' freedom to remain at large will remain is now open to question. It is probable that the current 'Pussy Riot' trial will simply harden the authorities' resolve in believing that they can get away with fairly arbitrary incarcerations of critical individuals," he said.

    Susan Larsen, who lectures on Russian culture at the University of Cambridge, thinks Putin's government is trying to tighten its grip on power through an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church.

    "The, what you could call the Putinocracy, has been manipulating the laws in order to maintain its grip on power," she said. "And part of that attempt to maintain a grip on power is through alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. This is just the visible tip of an iceberg of rapidly increasing repression and clamp-down on many different forms of political activity."

    Critics of the punk protesters, however, say their stunt was an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church, and they should have been punished even more harshly.

    Larsen contends those sentiments will have little impact inside Russia.

    "The trial itself can't have an impact on opinion inside the country until the mass media, mainly the broadcast media, start to report on it in an even-handed way. The country itself is going to mobilize not around freedom of speech but it's going to mobilize around the fight against corruption," she said.

    Large crowds of "Pussy Riot" supporters gathered in Moscow for the trial on Friday, and there also were also sympathetic protests in Paris, Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona, as well as personal statements of support for the women from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: jimmy from: knoxville, tn
    August 19, 2012 7:53 AM
    THE LAST TIME CHECKED, if the singer had discicrated a jewish temple or a catholic church in USA or Britain, they would have let them go & not charge with HATE CRIME/FELONY!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.