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DW Freedom

Russia: Victim on an uninhabited desert island

Three years ago journalist Oleg Kaschin lost his job as an editor. He describes his forced unemployment as his only chance to express his opinion freely in contemporary Russia.

Imagine a desert island. The kind that feature in cartoons where a single palm tree rises from heap of sand in the ocean. Would you be concerned that this island has no opera house, no airport, no library or Internet café? Of course not. It is an uninhabited island. There is nothing there, so there can be no cafés and no theaters.

Now consider this. How can there be freedom of expression in a country where there is no change in power, no division of power, no independent courts, no local autonomy, no civil society, no political competition, and where there are plenty of other shortfalls? What would it look like if, on the middle of that desert island, the sparkling office of an independent newspaper or TV station were to rise like a palm tree? Who would benefit from it and in what way?

Reporting what Putin wants

Oleg Kaschin

Oleg Kaschin

In Russia there are public servants and even members of parliament who have never given a single interview because they know they are beholden to an employer: the president is the electorate and the boss at one and the same time.

I actually think their caginess is more honest than the media activities of the ministers and members of parliament that sit in talk shows or carefully answer questions that have been pre-agreed by journalists and press offices. What is the point of playing this game and depicting something that doesn't exist?

Three years ago I lost my job. It was very painful, but with hindsight, I understand that forced unemployment in contemporary Russia is the only way people who have something to say, can exercise a freedom of expression. I have no bosses who can fire me. I cannot be told to write what I don't want to.

Writing for different publications, including DW, such as I do, would once have simply made me a "freelancer," but in the current climate there is more to my role. Because television channels or newspapers don't offer their audiences a chance to engage in direct dialogue.

"I will conduct journalistic research and that will change the world. I will report on the recent events that lead to decisions." I don't believe in that. It might hold for other countries that are constructed differently to modern Russia. I see it as my job to stimulate dialogue between people. But doing that job when my country is sinking into a new political reality, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Oleg Kaschin is one of Russia's best-known investigative journalists and most active Twitter users. He is critical of the lack of democracy in Russia. In 2010 he was attacked and seriously injured by unknown assailants. Kaschin is one of Russia's most active Twitter users.