Interview with Mikhail Shvydkoy, President of the Russian Television Academy Foundation and Special Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation, Moscow, Russia
DW: The role of the media in a large, diverse country like Russia must be rather complex. How would you describe the main functions of media?
MS: In my point of view, media are obliged to fulfill at least two tasks. They must offer information on important events throughout the world and provide education. If we talk about media in an ideal sense, they must execute the same mission that Thomas Mann described in relation to the theater: “to convert the crowd into people”.
DW: Television and social media can play an important role in promoting education and information. Do the media in Russiafulfillthis task or are there deficits?
MS: The deficits in promoting education and offering information can be felt always and everywhere. The question is: Which form of media fulfills its tasks in better ways and which in worse ways? As a means of providing information, the Internet leads in Russia; in the sense of education, television leads.
DW: How does the political landscape in Russia influence the free flow of media information?
MS: The political landscape of any kind usually has an influence on the quality of media information. Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have said many times that they are against Internet censorship and that they support democratic and free media. We must also bear in mind that the Russian constitution forbids censorship. The main problem we have is the problem of self-censorship. This is also a point of contrast between different types of media.
DW: In recent months, the media have frequently reported about the political situation in Ukraine, focusing especially on the case of Yulia Tymoshenko. In your opinion, does the lack of political freedom in countries like Ukraine also explain the sometimes inhuman treatment faced by opposition activists?
MS: Responding to questions from journalists on May 3, 2012, Vladimir Putin suggested accepting Yulia Tymoshenko into Russia for medical treatment. At the same time he considered that none of the agreements she signed had any contradictions with law. On many occasions, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed its concern regarding the terms of retaining Yulia Tymoshenko in custody. Inhuman treatment of prisoners cannot be explained away by the lack of political freedom in a country.