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Silverman: Pay attention when authoritarians target journalists, here and abroad.

This is an existential battle between good and evil — darkness and light, Craig Silverman writes. Journalists bring light to the world.

In your pursuit of truth, follow independent media. Pay attention when journalists leave a country. Perhaps you should follow. 

If a government criminalizes the presentation of facts, or arguments based on evidence, then the fix is in. Such societies cannot succeed.

March entered like a big, mean bear in Moscow. Russia’s last objective television and radio stations abruptly shuttered. An independent Nobel-prize winning newspaper, celebrated for enhancing press freedom, is under increasing pressure. Many Russian journalists fled the country.  

Craig Silverman

Using words such as “war” or “invasion” when reporting on Ukraine is suddenly prosecutable in Russia. Fifteen years in prison await violators of Putin’s “Fake News” law. It gets chilly in Siberia. Falling from buildings is terrible, too. Dead reporters tell no tales.

Katerina Kotrikadze was born in 1984 in Tiblisi, Georgia (USSR). A journalism honor student at Moscow State University, Kotrikadze was greatly impacted by her mother’s 1999 murder in the infamous explosion of an apartment  building on Guryanov Street in Moscow. By 2022, Kotrikadze rose to the prized job of news director at Dozhd (TV Rain in Moscow). 

When Putin’s War began in late February, Dozhd broadcast 24/7 till Russia’s Duma unanimously passed the censorship laws making legitimate media unsustainable. After a memorable final broadcast, Kotrikadze and her husband, Dozhd Chief Editor Tikhon Dzyadko, fled Moscow for the still-free portion of Georgia.

This journalistic couple won’t be silenced. Live on Saturday from their cramped Tblisi quarters, Dzvadko told CNN, “We felt we would be more useful for our viewers when we are safe, and when we are free, than when we are in jail.” 

Passing their blonde toddler Misha back and forth, these new parents ridiculed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s claim Ukraine hadn’t been invaded. Both laughed at Russian claims of weaponized birds. Kremlin state media needs such fact-checking. 

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Some brave Russian reporters refuse to leave. On Sunday, Yevgenia Albats, also a Moscow State trained journalist, told Brian Stelter on CNN, “It is too late for me to be afraid,” and she’s “ashamed of my country.” Albat’s still working, but for how long? 

Journalists are now being killed in Putin’s War. Accomplished documentarian Brent Renaud was slaughtered. This is an existential battle between good and evil — darkness and light. Journalists bring light to the world.

The whole world is watching. We can follow brave Russian and Ukrainian journalists on Twitter. We learn the lies Putin tells Russian people. Can there really be an Iron Curtain in 2022?

Tyrants abhor truthful media. Freedom of the press was deliberately prioritized in America’s Bill of Rights. Without a free press, civilized societies die. Expect Russia to now fail as a country. 

In 1786, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote from monarchical France, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited, without being lost.” 

Putin is an old-fashioned evil tyrant. Narcissists can’t believe when we all don’t love them. They wrap themselves in their national flag. Loyalty is demanded. And enforced.

“The media is producing fake news — they are the enemy of the people!” say totalitarians everywhere. Truth is what they fear. Justice, civility and integrity flow from free speech, free press and rule of law.

Putin-loathing has temporarily brought America together. So has admiration for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He’s an attorney, comedian and world leader now. Ukraine’s Servant of the People knows how to communicate — often via his own smart phone.

Please don’t ever forget 2018 when Donald Trump genuflected to Putin at Helsinki. Remember always how Trump and Putin bullied Zelenskyy. Trump called Russia’s dictator “savvy” and “genius” as Putin’s War began. Trump still refuses to personally criticize Russia’s leader.

In Colorado, threats on media flow from Tina Peters’ authoritarian wing of Colorado’s Republican Party. Peters, newly indicted by a grand jury on felony charges, has supporting podcasts and radio shows. Further, there’s a militia affiliated with FEC United, a powerful conservative organization vociferously backing Peters and Trump’s Big Lie. 

When FEC leader Joe Oltmann recently told his podcast audience, “I’ll stand on the side of Russia right now,” the New York Times took note. Colorado conservative broadcasters and leadership said nothing. 

Colorado’s senior radio-talker wants Putin to win his war quickly. But that’s not Putin’s apparent plan. Expect Putin’s War to bleed into the spring, taking attention from the January 6 Select Committee hearings. Mobsters sometimes create helpful distractions for fellow racketeers.

America could descend into authoritarianism if Trump’s GOP prevails in 2022. Expect Biden impeachments and gutting of Trump investigations. If prosecutors bring criminal charges against Trump, he’ll summon violent mobs to obstruct “racist” prosecution(s). 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Trump tried out his 2024 electoral pitch Saturday in South Carolina, claiming he alone can calm Putin. 

House editorials at the Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel have compellingly denounced right-wing threats on Colorado media. Meanwhile, Colorado conservative leaders call for confrontation, rather than civility.

Colorado Republicans should vociferously condemn the Putin-admiring, would-be authoritarians, within their GOP. Hell, even Mike Pence has gone that far.

Democracy must not die in Ukraine. Let’s all rebuke Putin, and his enablers. Let’s find ways to keep shining light back into Russia. And America. If truths prevail, western civilization will win. 


Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C. and is host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.


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