The State Duma lower house of parliament has refused support a bill proposing to oblige state media to publish the results of party fractions' voting on the issues that are mandatory for publication by mass media.
Amendments to the Law Concerning the Coverage of the Activities of State Government Bodies in the Mass Media were made to the State Duma by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) faction.
As Vladimir Bortko, a deputy from the CPRF fraction explained, after the law on raising the retirement age, remarks should have been made in brackets that it had been supported by United Russia, and after the Duma’s failure to adopt a law on wartime children, it was important to inform the public that the CPRF had voted for that law. In the Bortko‘s opinion, this would be a fair political struggle.
Vladimir Bortko, who is a notable Russian film director, said with definite sarcasm that if United Russia is confident of extreme usefulness for the Russians of everything they do, the faction should be happy to pass this law. He claimed, however, that United Russia is protecting the interests of the upper class. To reinforce his claim, he cited the laws adopted by the parliament – the ones on the amnesty of capital, VAT increase by 2%, creation of offshore zones in the country, exemption from taxes for yacht owners, etc.
Representatives of United Russia considered those claims unfair.
According to Anton Gorelik (United Russia), the committee on information policy, information technologies and communications believes that the bill is needless. He recalled that the Law Concerning Coverage of the Activities of State Government Bodies in the Mass Media contains an article that obliges the media to inform people on topical issues regarding the viewpoints of the president, the government, and the State Duma, including deputy associations.
Gorelik also recalled that the Russia-24 state-owned Russian-language news channel broadcasts a TV show titled ‘The Parliament Hour’, which presents the opinions of deputies and factions to the audience.
In addition, he said that the law on guarantees of equality of parliamentary parties in the coverage of their activities by public TV and radio channels is in force. The results of all votes are promptly posted on the website of the State Duma with no access restrictions.
In addition, the top executives of state channels always have an opportunity to meet up with the heads of factions for discussion of pressing issues.
However, the Duma minority -- the CPRF and the LDPR -- strongly disagreed that all parties have the same opportunities. The deputies began to air their current grievances and recall the old ones. For example, Andrey Andreychenko (LDPR) said that during the pre-election period they had to encounter the fact that candidates from the “powerhouse party” got more broadcasting time. In his opinion, these are double standards.
Alexey Kurinny (CPRF) said that timing may be formally taken into account, but it's up to the channel to decide what information goes on the air. And it can have a discouraging effect, too.
Pavel Shperov (LDPR) stated that he did not understand why the Communists’ proposal had been deemed excessive. All the deputies want is that their points of view and the voting results should be conveyed to the voters.
Otherwise, voters have the impression that laws are passed by a common vote in a swoop and concerted effort. At the same time, representatives of different factions have significantly different views on many issues.
According to Nikolay Osadchy (CPRF), it is not clear why state TV channels and other media actively inform people about the fact that some political parties have gotten seats in the Duma at elections, and after that, voters no longer know anything about their activity.
Evgeny Revenko (United Russia) tried to stand up for both his colleague Gorelik and the media, calling on the opponents not to encroach on the editorial policy and not to dictate to the editorial boards what they should broadcast to the public and how. He made a reminder of the basic value of our society which is freedom of speech.
However, constructive dialogue did not work out. Nikolay Kolomeytsev (CPRF) did not like Revenko’s statement. He said that it is known "how many square meters and in what precisely offshore zones the executive of TV channels have." At the same time, ordinary employees on state TV channels practically have the status of semi-slaves.
According to Kolomeytsev, there is no equality even on TV channel of the State Duma.
In his turn, Kurinny noted that the central television has become an instrument of fooling the people. The central media are not trustworthy specifically because only one point of view is presented there.
Alexander Sherin (LDPR) said he is not ready to take responsibility for United Russia's actions. And people should know which faction in the Duma voted on this or that issue. Opposition deputies fully agreed with this point of view.
The intensity of emotions during the discussion of the bill may be explained for by the forthcoming State Duma elections. The parliamentary minority plans to distance itself from unpopular decisions made by the State Duma where United Russia has the lead. And the discussion of the bill is gives them an opportunity to voice their position once again.