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Erosion of Independent Media a Key Feature of Russia's Democratic Decline

Russian Pro-Democracy Leader Vladmir Milov (center) at RFE/RL's Washington, DC office (29Jun2010)
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) According to a new Freedom House report unveiled at RFE/RL's Washington, D.C. office today, independent media have declined significantly across the former Soviet Union during the past decade.

"What good is a protest if there's nobody to cover it?" asked Oleg Kozlovsky, a popular Russian blogger and human rights activist who participated in a panel to discuss the release of Freedom House's Nations in Transit 2010. The report documents a deterioration of democratic institutions in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe in 2009. The findings cap a decade in which all of the former Soviet countries (except the Baltic states) suffered declines in democratic accountability, with the steepest drop occurring in Russia.

If Russians want better lives, they need to implement Western-style democratic reforms.

Vladimir Milov, one of the founders of Russia's opposition "Solidarity" movement and the country's former Deputy Energy Minister, blamed Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the "slide towards authoritarianism."

"If Russians want better lives, they need to implement Western-style democratic reforms," said Milov, who joined the panel. "If change is going to happen, it will happen from within. I sense that dissent will start not in Moscow, but in the outer regions where there is a growing clamor for more open debate and free political choice."

Daniel Baer, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, called the Freedom House report , "a strategically important document for policymakers dealing with worrying trends of democratic decline across the post-Soviet region."

The briefing also included remarks from: Christopher Walker, Freedom House's Director of Studies and author of the overview essay of Nations in Transit 2010; Robert Orttung, president of the Resource Security Institute and author of the report's Russia section; Erica Marat, a Central Asia scholar and author of the Kyrgyzstan section; and Alexander Motyl, a professor of Political Science at Rutgers University- Newark.

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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is an independent, international news and broadcast organization whose programs -- radio, Internet and television -- reach influential audiences in 21 countries such as Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the republics of Central Asia. RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). You can follow RFE/RL on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.