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Insights on the Russian Media and Public Opinion in Connection with Olympics

Released: 2/7/2014 1:30 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Indiana University
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A journalism professor who has studied Russian media for more than three decades says most of that nation's citizens are looking forward to the Olympics with a strong sense of pride and aren't paying attention to the issues that the rest of the world is scrutinizing.

"Just as the British did when they hosted the summer Olympics two years ago, they hope for a well-run Olympics, and they hope their team wins many medals," said Owen Johnson, an associate professor of journalism and former director of the Russian and East European Institute at IU. "They want world television and visiting journalists to focus on the Olympic Games, not on Russian domestic issues.

"It must not be forgotten that the majority of Russians, especially outside of the big cities, continue to support Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is not about politics, but about traditional loyalty to the leader of the Russian state and a pride in their country," Johnson said.

"Although it disturbs people in the United States, many Russians consider homosexuality abnormal or immoral. They see protests from the West about Russian treatment of homosexuality as anti-Russian actions, designed to make Russia and the Olympics look bad in the worldview.

"Russian media will be almost always upbeat about the Olympics in Sochi. They will focus on the successes of the Russian athletes and will print and broadcast numerous interviews with foreign visitors about how successful the Olympic experience has been."

If organizations responsible for the recent bombings in Volgograd repeat such attacks elsewhere in Russia, visiting journalists will be challenged, especially should they decide to remain in Sochi.

"Russia recently denied readmission to a Western journalist (David Satter), apparently upset by his objective reporting about events in the country. While it would seem that this runs counter to other more positive actions by President Putin recently, this might be designed to make visiting journalists more cautious," Johnson said. "Putin is less concerned about world public opinion than he is about his continued support in Russia."

Johnson can be reached at 812-855-0506 or johnsono@indiana.edu. He is a historian who focuses his research on the sociocultural roles and functions of journalism in Central and East European societies. For additional assistance, contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or vlahakis@iu.edu.

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