TV-2 in Tomsk, Siberia, was among the last free and independent regional media outlets in Russia. But the company's unfettered journalism was not in sync with the country's increasingly restrictive political climate. The station's broadcasts were shut down without explanation at the end of 2014.
RFE/RL correspondent and former Tomsk TV-2 journalist Melani Bachina, who documents TV-2’s story in Death Of A Station: The Rise And Fall Of Free Media In Russia, told RFE/RL Pressroom that the film illustrates not only the channel’s plight but the fate of independent media in Russia. With more than 100,000 views online and across social networks, her portrait about the power of a free press and how it can be silenced has resonated with audiences throughout the country.
RFE/RL Pressroom: Why did you make this documentary?
Melani Bachina: It was important for me to make this documentary not only because it forms part of my personal history, but also because I understood that the shutdown of TV-2 is not just a story about the closure of an independent television company in a small Siberian city. This is a story about a period of time, a story about choice, not only for the journalists who worked for TV-2 but for independent journalism. By sharing the fate of TV-2, I wanted to address the fate of free media in Russia and what has happened to it during Putin's era.
TV-2 turned out to be a vivid example of how independent media outlets emerged in the country, how they developed and flourished, and how they were destroyed. It was not by chance that the film received so many reviews. All sorts of viewers and journalists agreed that the documentary is about all of us.
Most importantly, the documentary explores the price of a compromise made by many Russian journalists and media managers when Putin entered in to power. It asks, where is the line? Must we give up our principles to survive, or is it better to remain true to our principles and die? This question is answered differently by the film’s protagonists, and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions. The fate of those who made compromises and those who refused to do so has taken shape in different ways.
I believe that this film is valuable for understanding what happened to independent media in Russia, from the moment journalists gained freedom of speech until they lost it – some of them by their own free will and others against it.
Pressroom: What impact has your documentary had in Russia?
Bachina: It is difficult for me to judge the impact of the film and how it was perceived in Russia, but I received a huge amount of positive feedback and not a single negative response. Many representatives of our profession, not only journalists and media managers, but also university teachers, wrote and said how important it was to make such a film in order to try to comprehend and understand what has happened to the profession of journalism in Russia over the past 25 years. People wrote in with words of gratitude about how important it was to collect the facts and tell this story.
I hope that this tremendous work was not done in vain and that we were able to answer some of the questions that torment people about the profession of a journalist. We were able to document what represents for many of us a difficult piece of history in the profession of journalism and its place in Russia.
Melani Bachina joined RFE/RL 14 years ago as a radio presenter before continuing her work as a freelancer in Russia, joining Tomsk TV-2 as a reporter and presenter in 2004. When Tomsk TV-2 was closed down by Russian authorities in 2014, Bachina joined RFE/RL to work on the launch of the Current Time Russian-language network. She is now a senior writer and producer for the Russian Service.
Contact her at LeonovaM@rferl.org