Putin pledges state support for independent mass media

President Vladimir Putin (C) attending the Second Media Forum of independent regional and local mass media, "Truth and Justice", sponsored by the Russian Popular Front at the Lenexpo Exhibition Center in St.Petersburg, April 28, 2015. (RIA Novosti / Alexei Druzhinin)
The Russian president has told the participants of a major media forum that society was interested in the development of independent mass media, and the state would lend support to both government-owned and private companies in this sphere.

Vladimir Putin made this statement on Tuesday as he spoke before the media-forum of the United Popular Front, a political support organization made up of those who support the president’s policies, but choose not to join any political party.

One of the journalists participating in the event complained that the private company he worked for had difficulties in competing with state-owned mass media, as the latter received help from the authorities in the form of low office rent, subsidized transport and computers, and even subsidies for staff wages. “We are surviving on our own during the crisis and we have found ourselves in completely non-market conditions,” the reporter complained.

If we take a formal position it is all right for the state to pay for its own organizations, but society as a whole is also unconditionally interested in the development of the independent sector in mass media,” Putin answered. “We must develop the system of support that would help everyone,” he added.

"Your job is to ensure that the problems that exist everywhere in our country be resolved in a civilized fashion," Putin told reporters, noting that otherwise the potential for public protest could grow and suddenly erupt in an unpredictable fashion. "I would like to thank you for doing your job right. As I was listening to you I thought: who would dare say we don't have free media?" he added.

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However, the Russian leader noted that it was important to prevent abuse of mass media by various forces. “We must surely push for the situation when no one would even attempt to use the mass media to achieve some business ends or any other interests not connected with the objectives of society or the regions,” Putin said.

He also criticized the media outlets that allowed an excessive amount of advertising. “Print media must not be simply a spot for ads, they must carry useful information,” he said.