Russia jumped one position in the 2012 Press Freedom report by the Washington-based Freedom House think tank, from 173th in 2011, but is still ranked on par with Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe.
Russia was upgraded to 172nd position in the Global Press Freedom ranking mainly due to increase in use of the internet, social media, and satellite television which disseminated reports by the state-run media during the December parliamentary elections and subsequent protests, the report, published on Tuesday, said.
The country however retained its “Not Free” category with “the use of a pliant judiciary to prosecute independent journalists, impunity for the physical harassment and murder of journalists, and continued state control or influence over almost all traditional media outlets.”
Freedom House also said that among the major trends that affected the global freedoms in 2012 were growing popularity of new media outlets which were “effective at disseminating news of government abuses and mobilizing civic action against illiberal regimes.”
However the new media “play a much less significant role in the construction of democratic institutions, especially in societies where most of the population still gets its information from state-controlled broadcast outlets,” the report said.
Last December’s disputed parliamentary polls, which triggered mass anti-government protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, contributed to the rise in popularity of independent media outlets, including online and opposition-minded Dozhd TV channel, a news web site featuring user-generated content, Ridus.ru and others.
The unprecedented show of dissent saw President Dmitry Medvedev propose in December 2011 a bill of reforms, which included among others a creation of a public TV station that would be free of Kremlin control.