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Russian Journalists: Dilemmas in the Unionization. Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere International Conference Matters of Journalism: Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas, Gdansk 2012, 14-15.09. Unionization: Disconnected Ways.

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Russian journalists dilemmas in the unionization

Russian Journalists:Dilemmas in the Unionization

Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere

International Conference Matters of Journalism:

Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas,

Gdansk 2012, 14-15.09

Unionization disconnected ways
Unionization: Disconnected Ways

Pre-Soviet period: the 1880s – 1917: Rise of

Independent Unions

Soviet period: 1917-1992: Arm of the State

Post-Soviet period: 1992 –: Mix:


Latent Arm of State or State &Capital

Arm of the State (Media Union)


Pre soviet period independent
Pre-Soviet period: Independent

  • 1880s: Rise of capitalism, the rise of the mass-circulation

    press, its commercialization, movement towards

    independence, the search for professional models

  • First professional associations:

    1838 - Mutual Aid Fund of printers

    1896 - Union of of Mutual Aid for Russian Writers

  • Russian journalists - in the International Congresses of

    Journalists; First professional editions

Pre soviet period independent1
Pre-Soviet period: Independent

  • The Tsar’s manifesto (17 October 1905) permitted freedom of speech and professional unions

  • Several journalistic organisations established:

  • Union of Journalists, Book Publishers and Book Printers

  • Union of Defence of Press Freedom (all dailies and many monthly editions of St. Petersburg)

  • Congresses of writers and journalists (1905, 1910, 1917)

  • Agenda: Questions of professional associations and education

Soviet period arm of state
Soviet period: Arm of State

  • Private practice is abolished, free status of professions is transferred into state service

  • 1918, 13 November –First Congress of Soviet Journalists, Lenin as Honorary Chairman

  • 1918 first local unions of Soviet journalists - to support the young Soviet state

  • Later they transformed into sections of the press workers within the state trade unions

  • Regular Journalists’ Congresses in Moscow with the leaders of the Communist Party

Soviet period arm of state1
Soviet period: Arm of State

  • 1957: Union of Journalists of USSR established with its branches in all republics and regions

  • 1959, 12-14 November: First Congress of the Union of Journalists

  • State finances the Union and provides health resorts members of the Union

  • Paid secretaries lead regional unions

  • Primary organizations of the Union - in every newspaper, radio and television

  • Number of members is 43.000 in 1971

Soviet period arm of state2
Soviet period: Arm of State

  • Union of Journalists of the USSR - a creative organization aimed at the political and professional education of journalists although without real opportunities to protect journalists

  • Demands for membership:

  • High professional skill

  • Experience of staff work in the media no less than three years

  • Recommendations from the senior journalists

  • Membership as recognition of professionalism


Post soviet period from the arm of state to independence
Post-Soviet period: From the Arm of State to Independence

  • 1992 Union of Journalists of USSR collapsed, Russian Union of Journalists established

  • In Moscow it kept the premises, but lost State support

  • Regional unions –Independent from the Central office in Moscow, do not send the member’s fees to it, as before

  • 1994 Congress of the Union accepted Code of Ethics, but it does not work

Dilemmas in the unionization membership decline
Dilemmas in the Unionization: Membership Decline

  • 1992 - 60%, 2008- 42% Among them:

  • 70% of members live in small city

  • 30% of members – in big city or mid-size city


Factors behind decline
Factors behind Decline

  • No primary organization of the Union in the medium

  • Hostile attitude of owners and heads of mediums to independent journalistic organizations and trade unions

  • Gap between the Central Union and regional unions: ‘No professional community of journalists in Russia’

  • No common rules and norms in the unionization

Post soviet types of union
Post-Soviet Types of Union

  • Independent/Self-Asserting

  • Latent Arm of State

  • Latent Arm of State &Capital

  • Arm of the State (Media Union)

Independent union
Independent Union

  • Very few

  • Hard survival in society: Hostile environment from the officials and business affiliated to the government

  • Hard situation within the union: Conflicting values preventing consolidation

  • Code of Ethics: Dilemma of acceptance

  • Indirect intervention of the government into the union; Prosecutions

Latent arm of state and or capital
Latent Arm of State and/or Capital

  • Functionaries of government –in Board of Union

  • Functionaries of government and business in members of the Union

  • Why accepted? “In order not to be eaten up by their own people – journalists” Reply of the head of the union

  • Mechanisms of defense of journalists underdeveloped

  • Most union’s activity: festivals, celebrations of veterans, regular awarding of the important officials and journalists: journalistic awards, medals, orders

Arm of state
Arm of State

  • 2001: Media Soyuz (Media Union) by the Kremlin initiative in Moscow with its branches in the regions

  • First President –Aleksander Lybimov, the famous journalist of the TV program Vzglyad

  • Generous State financing

  • 2007-2008: educational project ‘Mediacracy’ aimed at young journalists with the support of the All Russian political party Edinaya Rossia (United Russia): 1,000 journalists from 81 regions involved

  • Performs as a competitor of the present Union of Journalists of Russia in recruiting of new members

Challenges for future of union
Challenges for Future of Union

  • Post-Soviet types of the Union do not inspire young:

  • Independent unions - difficulty to survive

  • Member corruption (officials and business in the journalistic union) make no sense to join

  • Aging and peripheral: Soviet generation – 76%; Post-2000 - 17%, 70% - small cities and 30% - big cities

  • No traditions of strong independent trade unions

  • Young: individualistic, highly mobile, self-interest in the profession

  • A lack of self-reflecting on the profession

Insights for optimism
Insights for optimism

  • Collaboration of Russian Union of Journalists with the International Federation of Journalists

  • Learning the union’s experience in the European countries: Barents Press Annual Meetings, visits to abroad

  • 57% of journalists wish their trade union

  • New possible initiatives from young, freelancers and new media to establish their independent unions

  • Present Independent Journalistic unions acting together with the human rights NGOs

Russian journalists typical portrait shifted
Russian Journalists: Typical Portrait Shifted

  • 1992 – Male, about 40, married, having children, with journalistic education and professional experience about 16 years, devoted to the profession, member in the Union of Journalists

  • 2008 – Female, under 35, married, having children, living in the large city or mid-sized city, from the middle class family, with high education, having a second job, without membership

Russian journalists dilemmas in the unionization1

Russian Journalists: Dilemmas in the Unionization

Svetlana Pasti

University of Tampere