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Russia: “Anatomy of a Protest” Film Causes “NTV Lies” Scandal

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

On Sunday, March 18, 2012, there were old TV sets, a mock coffin, and plenty of flowers and cookies outside the Ostankino TV tower in Moscow, where a few hundred protesters gathered for a mock funeral of the “truthful television.”

The unsanctioned rally was organized via social networks [ru] in response to “Anatomy of a Protest,” a film produced by and aired on the state-controlled NTV channel on Thursday, March 15, which claimed, among other things, that those who attended recent opposition rallies had received “money and cookies” for their participation.

NTV's mock grave at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by EVGENY FRANK, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

NTV's mock grave at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by EVGENY FRANK, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

On Friday, March 16, public outrage sparked by NTV's film gained momentum, with the hashtag #НТВлжет (“NTV lies”) soon becoming one of the top trending topics on Twitter.

Tom Parfitt ‏(@parfitt_tom) wrote:

#НТВлжёт – “NTV lies” is trending hard on Russian Twi after ridiculous smear documentary about Russian opposition [...]

Nataliya Vasilyeva (@NatVasilyevaAP) wrote [ru]:

I'm watching yesterday's NTV “film.” And these people are called “journalists” too. I can't stay silent. But I can't allow myself to [use bad language] either ((.

Nikolaus von Twickel (@niktwick) commented on Novaya Gazeta‘s online reaction to the scandal:

Nice: @novaya_gazeta no longer writes NTV but only NTVlies (#НТВлжет) [...]

Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) wrote about the reaction of another Russian media outlet, the Expert Magazine:

Expert mag cutting all cooperation w NTV after false use of ed-in-chief interview in yesterday's hitjob https://www.facebook.com/ExpertOnline/posts/316335338428051 v @Yenisei23

Alex Sidorenko (@sidorenko_intl) wrote about the reaction on the Russian social networks:

Bloggers got completely tired of accusatory #NTV journo-crap. DDoSed #NTV servers and completely trashed Vkontakte page: vk.com/ntv

Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) noted the reaction [ru] by Ashot Gabrelyanov, the editor of LifeNews.ru online tabloid:

Chief Executive of lifenews.ru @gabrelyanov says to those complaining about NTV attack on the protests. “Watch Facebook” if u don't like TV.

@NatVasilyevaAP tweeted about NTV's surprising counter-reaction to the public outrage:

NTV is set to show a re-run of its hatchet job on the oppossion in the evening of the planned rally against NTV http://t.co/Y8WhQZjt

@BBCDanielS pointed out that, according to NTV, the film's re-run was scheduled “due to popular demand.” He wrote:

NTV has decided to wind the protestors up. It is going to RE-BROADCAST the controversial documentary on Sunday night after the demonstration

Both @NatVasilyevaAP and @BBCDanielS were referring to the March 18 protest at Ostankino. On Saturday, March 17, however, a smaller protest took place at Pushkin Square in Moscow. On his Facebook page, Andrei Jvirblis posted a few photos from the gathering and wrote [ru]:

[...] [A rally] either for freedom to political prisoners, or against NTV's lies, or just to have a chat. Spring is here, finally!

Journalist and activist Olga Romanova, whose husband, businessman Alexei Kozlov, was sentenced to five years in prison on March 15, attended the March 17 gathering at Pushkin Square, and later explained [ru] on her Facebook page why she was against boycotting NTV:

[...] First, good, honest people remain there and continue working [...]. Second, you shouldn't share links to the stupid film – its ranking is only growing because of that, i.e. [the money continues to flow in]. If you don't like it, ignore it. [...] Third, the honest employees of NTV will attend the rally at Ostankino tomorrow, and it's the toughest for them now, by the way. [...]

A reader, Marina Mirlina, responded [ru]:

I know, too, that there are some wonderful and honest journalists at NTV. [...] And I'll go to the rally now. I think that this way we'll be able to help those honest journalists who still work there. And they understand perfectly well that these rallies are not against them but for them…

Vera Lurie wrote [ru]:

Olga, I used to think differently, but I admit that you are right and I'm not. It's impossible for everyone to resign. Teachers at all schools, because there are dishonest ones, those who took part in falsifying [the election results]; journalists, because there are many corrupt and cynical, with no shame and consciousness; all the judges, because a huge number of judges have lost their human qualities. As [Niels Bohr] used to say, at least tiny pockets of decency should be preserved. Everywhere.

A number of online anti-NTV initiatives have emerged in the past few days.

There is now a “Boycott NTV” Facebook page, with 1,566 members; its mission statement reads [en]:

In Russia, tv channel NTV (НТВ) issued a false statement alleging that the opposition to the ruling party is being paid by “money and cookies”. This group was created in order to call for a boycott of NTV and its advertisers.

Tomsk-based user Sergey Maltsev posted [ru] a list of NTV's advertisers, both domestic and foreign, with their contact info and a sample appeal letter:

[...] I am writing to inform you that I refuse to buy and use [your] products, because your company, as an advertiser, supports the Russian TV – NTV channel in particular – which broadcasts absolutely dishonest and offensive programs. [...] The [latest NTV show], an absolutely dishonest “Anatomy of a Protest,” has affected me personally, since I am a participant of all the political rallies “For fair elections!” that took place in Tomsk from Dec. 2011 to March 2012. I am an ordinary citizen and I do not have any means of exerting pressure on NTV's executives, except for one: boycotting the products and services of the channel's advertisers. I'll be calling everyone who shares my views to such actions, via my personal blog, social networks, mass media outlets accessible to me, etc. I hope that when our numbers have grown noticeably enough, your company will refuse to advertise on NTV. [...]

@sidorenko_intl reported on a similar initiative on LiveJournal (the LJ post [ru] mentioned in the tweet below now has over 2,000 comments):

Bloggers continue attacking #NTV: @ottenki_serogo had created a list of NTV advertizers in order to boycott them http://ottenki-serogo.livejournal.com/248162.html [ru]

Another Facebook group, “I do not watch NTV,” has 1,607 ‘likes'. Alfred Koch, who headed Gazprom-Media at the time of its controversial takeover of NTV in 2001, argued [ru] on his Facebook page that “our opponents understand the language of money well” and that it might be a lot more efficient to stop watching NTV than to “go out in the freezing temperatures to yell something anti-Kremlin for two hours”:

[...] Just in Moscow, around 2 million people could support the “I do not watch NTV” action. Such a significant loss of audience cannot be ignored by the Gallup Media, and this, in its turn, will become public. Which means that the advertisers will learn about it. NTV losses due to such an action will amount to millions of dollars a month. [...] The conditions to be met for the action to stop are also simple [...]: clear and unambiguous apologies for the “Anatomy of a Protest” show [...]. [...]

In another Facebook post [ru], Koch provides some financial projections:

[...] According to my estimates, NTV earned approximately $700-$800 million from advertisement last year. Even a 10-percent shrinking of the audience (and I think we can achieve this, if about 40 percent of the population voted against Putin and we could get at least every fourth person involved), this would mean a year-end earnings loss of about $80 million. Or around $6-$7 million a month (the action's approximate duration). Trust me, it's a significant blow! [...]

Riot police at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by EVGENY FRANK, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

Riot police at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by EVGENY FRANK, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

Back in the offline world, at the March 18 Ostankino rally, the riot police, quite predictably, ended up detaining “about 100 protesters.” The echo of these detentions was best heard online, of course.

Fedor Kemenov (@fkemenov) posted a picture of a protester being detained and tweeted [ru]:

Participants of the rally at #Ostankino, tired and cold, are being helped into a warm bus by the caring policemen [...]

On Facebook, Vyacheslav Yegorov posted a photo of an elderly man being detained in a very rough manner and wrote [ru]:

Yesterday at [Pushkin Square], this [old man] kept asking the police: “Don't you see what's happening to the country?” Today, they dragged him [...] to a [prisoner transport vehicle]. How can it be???!!! What's he so dangerous for?? [...]

Artem Ayvazov (@shegolll) tweeted [ru] his own detention:

Oh, I've been detained, am sitting in a [prisoner transport vehicle]. [Detained] for the “Trained to Broadcast Lies” poster [...]

He tweeted throughout his ride to a police station (during which he and other detainees were joking [ru] and singing [ru] Yuri Shevchuk‘s songs, as well as Katyusha, a Russian wartime song), and throughout his stay there [ru], and was released approximately four hours later, along with others.

A young woman is being detained at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

A young woman is being detained at the Funeral of the Truthful Television rally at Ostankino, Moscow. Photo by MARIA PLESHKOVA, copyright © Demotix (18/03/12).

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

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