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From:

Peace Studies Newsletter, Issue 12, Summer 1996

WORK IN PROGRESS

RESEARCH STUDENTS NEWS: ACTIVITIES & PUBLICATIONS

Tom Angelakis sent us a report from Moscow in July 1996 while engaged in research on the internal debate between elites in Russia over the issue of NATO expansion. He had the opportunity to act as an accredited international election observer for "Quaker Peace and Service" during both rounds of the presidential elections. During the voting process, where he was observing, there appeared to be an almost universal unwillingness by the voters to exercise their right to the secret ballot in the curtained off booths. Nevertheless, apart from an isolated, albeit serious, violation which he witnessed during the first round, and the apparent secrecy by the polling Station officials when completing the documentation for ballot totals, Tom believes the voting was conducted freely, and the counting of ballots was completed fairly. However, the democratic process involves more than free and fair casting, counting, and recording of ballots. Having arrived almost one month prior to the first round of elections he had the opportunity to witness the election campaign in full swing.

It quickly became obvious that the media’s coverage of the elections was extremely one-sided in favour of Yeltsin. So much so, that it would be difficult to distinguish the difference between the news coverage of the independent media during these elections and the state run media in the past. While the Western media is no role model, it usually attempts to give equal coverage and has at least maintained the semblance of impartiality when reporting on election campaigns. In Tom’s opinion, the blatant favouritism displayed by the media in Russia has called into question the legitimacy of Russia’s 1996 presidential elections. The conduct of the media in Russia must not simply be dismissed as an unfortunate necessity to protect the media’s future freedoms, as the Russian media claim. Instead, it should serve to alert us to the behaviour, and remind us of the responsibility, of the media in the democratic process.


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