President (or prime minister) of the Russian Federation
since 2000 Predator since taking office
Russia, 150th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Nationalist authoritarianism
Catapulted into the presidency in 2000 after a decade of dilution of authority, Putin has always had an overriding obsession with control. The media quickly felt the effects of his concern to impose top-down authority, called the “power vertical,” during his first two terms as president, when all the national TV channels were gradually brought under the Kremlin’s control from the start of the 2000s and Russian citizens were inundated with propaganda.
The authoritarianism became even more pronounced after Putin’s return to the presidency in May 2012 and an unprecedented wave of protests. The regime reacted to the new civil society assertiveness with a string of draconian laws criminalising protests and limiting free speech. The “foreign agents” law, which has applied to all the media since 2017, causes major financial problems for independent media such as Meduza, has forced some to close, and has even forced some journalists to label themselves as “foreign agents.”
Press freedom has been visibly and massively flouted by the police during protests in support of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny. The grip on the Internet has been steadily tightened since 2012 by means of many laws banning various kinds of content, stepping up control over the flow of information, preventing anonymous online communication and establishing a generalised system of surveillance.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: Independent media
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Brazen hypocrisy
“We have so many news channels, Internet channels, we have so many different opinions and there are so many critical opinions in the media, about the authorities (and about yours truly). I don’t think your countries have this, journalists who criticise the government so harshly.” (Statement during Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, 8 June 2021).
“The media’s active and responsible attitude and a truly independent and courageous journalism are more than ever desired and indispensable for Russia.” (Address to the Union of Journalists, April 2013).