Economist: It Takes One to Know One

The Economist reports on the media war broken out between Belarus and Russia.

One good thing about what is going on is that for the first time the public in Belarus and Russia can hear basically the truth about the neighbour’s government. Belarusians can get truthful stories about problems with freedom of speech in today’s Russia (see a report by the Belarusian TV channel STV here). On the other side, Russian TV tells the truth about Aliaksandr Lukashenka in its scandalous documentary The Godfather.

Truth is such a rare thing for state media in authoritarian states like Russia and Belarus. Let’s hope we’ll see more of it as the conflict escalates.

RUSSIA and Belarus are unlikely champions of democracy and freedom of speech. But a postmodernist approach to politics can yield odd results in the post-Soviet world. In recent weeks these authoritarian regimes have denounced each other’s authoritarianism and deployed state-controlled media to attack each other’s lack of media freedom. Bizarrely, this war of words has been waged in the name of brotherly ties and economic union.

Hostilities broke out three weeks ago when Moscow and Minsk sparred over gas prices and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus’s president, nearly reneged on a customs union between his country, Russia and Kazakhstan, which was finally signed on July 5th. A day earlier NTV, a television channel controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, aired “Godfather”, a documentary that portrayed Mr Lukashenka, long backed by Russia, as a brutal election-rigging, opposition-repressing tyrant.

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Alexander Čajčyc is a PhD candidate at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow.

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