How Russian state-funded media reported on the country-wide protest “He is not our Tsar!”
On May 5, protests against the inauguration of Russia’s long time president Vladimir Putin took place across the country. According to a Russian human rights monitoring site OVD-Info (ОВД-Инфо), Russian authorities detained over 1,600 people. This is about as many detentions as during the protest against corruption on March 26, 2017.
Protests were widely covered across western media, while Russian state-controlled media outlets were oftentimes mute, or channeled just the official announcements of state authorities.
On May 5, Russian state-owned TV channel “Perviy” (Первый) broadcasted news at 10:00, 12:00, 18:00, and 21:00. None of the broadcasts mentioned the protests. Five out of ten news stories of the last news broadcast covered the Victory Day celebrations scheduled for May 9.
Another Kremlin-owned TV channel “Rossiya” (Россия) did not mention the protests during its broadcast at 11:00 nor its Saturday’s broadcast with Sergey Brilev. In fact, quite the opposite occurred. At the end of the broadcast, Sergey Brilev spent ten minutes on a story detailing the Kremlin castle where Putin’s inauguration took place.
The protests were completely ignored also by “Vesti Nedeli”, a weekly re-cap show on channel “Rossiya”.
Contrary to “Perviy” and “Rossiya”, TV channel NTV, owned by the state-owned natural gas company Gazprom, published at least five stories about the protests.
The coverage of the protests started with news about detention of its organizer Alexey Navalny. The rest of the coverage channeled messages of official state sources. It claimed the number of protesters in Moscow to be 1,500, while Navalny’s team in Moscow posted on its VKontakte (ВКонтакте) page that the actual number is multiple times bigger. Navalny’s team did not name any actual number, though.
Most of the coverage focused on detentions during the unsanctioned protests. Three news stories covered developments of Navalny’s detention. Four stories were dedicated to explaining police behavior during detentions. Three news articles mentioned that protests were nationwide. Two articles addressed the European Union’s response to detentions during the protest. One article suggested that EU prepared their response to protests before they occurred. RIA Novosti also channeled the official message, reporting that the amount of protesters was insignificant.
Another state-owned news agency — TASS — published just six news articles about the protest. It reported that only 1,500 people gathered in Moscow, that 300 of which were detained, and that later 80 percent of the detained were released, including under-aged protesters. One of its news articles concluded that the unsanctioned protest in Moscow did not lead to any complications in the Moscow city center.
Similarly, @DFRLab identified at least four news articles about the protests on RT’s Russian version. The articles covered statements of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the amount of protesters, number of detainees in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the fact that under-aged detainees were released.
The official Russian state TV channels “Perviy” and “Rossiya” ignored the fact of the nation-wide protests completely. Two other TV channels that are partly owned by state companies covered the protests mostly focusing on the narrative that they were illegal and that the police was doing its job.
The only state-owned media outlet that provided extensive coverage of the protest was RIA Novosti. It published at least 26 news articles mostly focused on detentions. Other state-owned news portals reported official statements by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other state authorities.
All state-owned news sites covered in this report channeled the message that the protests were insignificant.
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