Thursday 15 March 2018

Taking on Putin

Well, I must say that I found John Sweeney's PanoramaTaking on Putin a gripping watch. It was almost like a Cold War spy drama at times. 

It build a strong case that Russia is a sham democracy and  a police state - something we already knew, of course, but it was eye-opening to see just how thuggish and ruthless it actually is. 

It was a distinctly Orwellian moment when the BBC crew (including JS) got arrested for vandalising a memorial to murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov when we viewers knew (and can be sure that the Russian authorities also knew) that a pro-Putin group had carried it out and that the BBC had merely been there filming them. 

And then came the local media's cringingly inept attempts to 'doorstep' John Sweeney, and the far-less-amusing pro-Kremlin TV news reports smearing John Sweeney.

While helping police with their inquiries, a story about me popped up on REN TV, a network that is said to be close to the FSB. The website said that I may be charged with vandalism for the attack on the Nemtsov shrine. I had once met Nemtsov, a brave and very funny critic of Putin. I dedicated my novel about modern Russia, Cold, to him. The idea that I would vandalise a Nemtsov shrine is nonsense.
(Sarcasm klaxon! - If there's one thing you can say for BBC reporters such John Sweeney is that they'd never leap to unjustified conclusions and smear people they disapprove of - and I'm sure Nigel Farage would back me up on that one).

Still, this Panorama could be taken as a warning to all democracies - sham or otherwise: A true democracy doesn't harass journalists. It doesn't follow them, or smear them, or arrest them on jumped-up charges...or, for that matter, refuse them entry into the country because they hold 'the wrong views', or detain them because they intend to interview someone of whom the authorities disapprove


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