NEWSLINK: Russian state TV talk show discusses controversial State Duma bills

Kremlin and St. Basil's

[Russian state TV talk show discusses controversial State Duma bills – BBC Monitoring/Rossiya 1 –
January 27, 2013]

BBC Monitoring reports on the Rossiya 1 television program “Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyev” and its January 27, 2013, broadcast covering Duma bills:

The 27 January edition of the “Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyev” talk show on state-owned Rossiya 1 TV featured discussions on two bills recently passed by the State Duma, one which bans propaganda of homosexuality to underage people and had been approved in first reading, and the Dima Yakovlev Act, which forbids the adoption of Russian children by US citizens, as well as an interview with celebrated viola player Yuriy Bashmet. Presenter noted that Russian society was split in its reaction to the new bills aiming to improve mental and physical health.

The host indicated that opposition members opposing a bill on homosexual propaganda “cannot be contacted” because they were “perceived adversely.” The program provided a forum for supporters of the measure to highlight concerns about protecting children, ensuring greater population growth and addressing concerns over homosexual acts being acts of power and degradation in some settings.  There also was mention of money from foreign sources being pumped into Russian nonprofits:

St Petersburg city council member Vitaliy Milonov (One Russia (United Russia)), who authored the bill on homosexual propaganda, said that it was needed because the state “has to mark places dangerous for our children”, adding that “in no way does it touch adults and their personal lives”. He also decried the complex “moral degradation of modern secular society”, and suggested that big money is being pumped into Russia from abroad to support NGOs.

State Duma member Yelena Drapeko (A Just Russia) said that she and her colleagues voted for the bill “because we want the population of the Russian Federation to grow”, and added that “there should be enough of us to develop Russian spaces, democratically or otherwise”. She also denied that the bill fights against homosexuals.

Author Viktor Yerofeyev noted that in prisons, army and power structures, a homosexual act is an act of power, of humiliation and oppression. Presenter said that opposition members, who stand up for homosexuals, are perceived adversely, so they cannot be contacted.

Additional commentators on the issue included a film producer, publicist, actress and psychotherapist.

On the subject the Dima Yakolev Act, banning U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans and restricting local elections, the broadcast reportedly focused more on criticizing a protest against the bill. The host himself called the  protest unhelpful and confrontrational, and provided a forum for a Duma deputy from One Russia to characterize the protest as challening authorities and public opionion.  The legislator also supported a provision restricting local elections, alleging that some local elections in rural elections sparked violence:

The last section of the programme focused on reaction to the Dima Yakovlev Act, which included the opposition-led March against Scoundrels, which presenter said was an example of unhelpfully confrontational kind of political polemics.

State Duma member Andrey Isayev, who is also deputy secretary of the One Russia General Council, said that the march indicated that liberal opposition decided to challenge both the authorities and the public opinion. The march undermined foundations of Russia’s cultural code, and opportunities for dialogue, as rally participants indicated they do not want to speak to any of the Duma parties, to the elected president, and to the tens of millions of people who voted for them. Explaining why there were limits introduced in a bill on election of local leaders, Isayev said that in some of Russian Federation’s ethnic regions there were armed clashes during elections for republican leaders, so the approach should be flexible.

The broadcast also provided a forum for the chairman of Yabloko to attack the adoptions ban,  criticize restrictions on elections and attack corruption, including alleging election fraud and “the stealing of votes”:

Chairman of Yabloko Sergey Mitrokhin said that the Dima Yakovlev Act “demonstrated to the whole world that our home-grown thieves will be protected in such a way as to make the whole world tremble with horror, by turning orphan children into human shields”. He added that those who “constantly deprive the people of something”, like of the right to elect governors, or of money for full repairs cannot be called patriots. The most important type of stealing, from which all others stem, is the stealing of votes during elections, Mitrokhin added.

The broadcast apparently also featured a blend of declarations of support for Russian by a classical musician, and discussion of whether a political opposition should be tolerated and whether mass media should include the exchange of political ideas.

A cellist declared support for Putin and reported being harrassed for doing so, but claimed that his critics had apologized:

Presenter introduced musician Bashmet as having been attacked for his civil position, however, Bashmet noted that he received apologies from those who publicly criticized him for supporting President Vladimir Putin. “I have my own country and I have my own respected and beloved president,” Bashmet reiterated. He noted that he agreed immediately to be Putin’s representative because he considers himself and Putin to be likely-minded people. Bashmet said he will consider playing with Putin, who was shown on television playing the piano, and recounted duetting with Japanese Empress Michiko.

The broadcast provided a venue for an historian to take the position that political opposition had never been tolerated in the entire history of Russia, and that tolerance of political opposition results in civil war.  He apparently was quick to join that notion with the idea of Russia being under threat from foreigners, questioned whether pluralistic democracy was even possible, apparently supported in that view by a Duma deputy who also was allowed to speak:

Author and historian Igor Volgin said that today’s situation is not unique, as throughout Russian history, the authorities accepted no opposition. “Such things end in a civil war,” he warned. Volgin noted that Russia is not just in crisis, it faces a threat to its national security, and asked whether a government of national unity with both opposition and ruling forces was possible. Member of the Public Chamber Alla Gerber agreed, saying that the authorities never listen to opposition, and always punish it.

The broadcast also featured remarks by a member of the Liberal Democratic Party questioning whether Russian media was interested in political debate, suggesting Russian media was more interested in covering scandals.

A Communist, a leader of the International Eurasian Movement and a theater director also were part of the discussion panel on politics and media, but BBC Monitoring does

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