Only some member states raised the issue of media freedom in bilateral talks with Russia and the EU had little impact.
The EU wants to see greater media freedom in Russia. However, the Russian mass media has increasingly come under state control since Putin’s first term. Although the internet remains free, the Kremlin has devoted considerable resources in recent years to sponsoring news portals, friendly bloggers and even so-called web brigades for organised web postings and attacks on opponents. Rolling back state control of the media may be unrealistic, but Europeans have regularly protested in recent years against new restrictions on media freedom and against increasingly frequent attacks on journalists.
In 2010, there were numerous cases of journalists who were harassed or prevented from travelling to the North Caucasus. In November, the independent newspaper New Times was found to have defamed the Moscow riot police and fined for a story about corruption. In the same month, Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin had to be placed in an artificial coma following a particularly savage beating after he reported on the destruction of the Khimki forest in order to build a road from Moscow to St. Petersburg. There were also other cases in which journalists covering the issue were harassed.
The EU said little and did even less. High Representative Catherine Ashton “deplored” the attack on Kashin. Some member states such as Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK also raisedthe issue of media freedom in bilateral talks. However, others such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece and Latvia avoided raising the issue in a bilateral context.