An influential Russian media figure best known for his calls to burn and bury the heart of gay people killed in accidents has visited Kyrgyzstan with calls for the two countries to sync their approach to spreading information.
Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Rossiya Segodnya state media holding, has in his position as a prominent television personality cast himself as a bulwark for conservative values against the would-be pernicious influence of the degenerate West.
That and other subjects were on the agenda at a September 22 discussion in Bishkek with the uninspired title: “Informational cooperation between Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the framework of Eurasian integration.”
Reprising a favorite theme, Kiselyov explained how a Eurasian media system might distinguish itself from the West.
“The difference between journalism in the post-Soviet space and the West is that we produce, we don’t reproduce,” he said, nebulously and without elaboration.
Kiselyov dismissed the propagandist label that accompanies his name in most Western news reports.
“I am a journalist, I cover [events] and draw conclusions,” he said.
All Kiselyov’s major talking points at the discussion were Kremlin favorites: the single-sex marriages and double standards of the West, the sins of the Ukrainian government and Russia’s brave struggle for a multipolar world.
The talk was also a promotional push for the five-member Eurasian Economic Union, which Kyrgyzstan joined last month.
After highlighting the perils awaiting nations — such as Ukraine — that “follow the paths of others,” Kiselyov, who was banned from traveling to the West following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine, debated Kyrgyzstan’s own “choice.”
“Kyrgyzstan has a choice. Following the path of Eurasian economic integration is the choice of national interests. Unfortunately we see today how countries simply disappear and there is no guarantee that Kyrgyzstan will also not disappear,” he said.
The country’s voice will have “weight” inside the bloc he assured.
The professed concern for Kyrgyzstan’s existence is a trend among Eurasianists — a once marginal community of thinkers that espouse a hazy cocktail of ideas that essentially boil down to Russia turning away from the West.
Last year, a speaker hired by Russia’s Gorchakov Foundation, a communications agency attached to the Russian Foreign Ministry, mused: “Does Kyrgyzstan have the strength to preserve its own statehood? If not then I fear the corporations will arrive. Perhaps British corporations, perhaps American corporations, I don’t know.”
Such alarmism seems to betray Kremlin unease in relation to Kyrgyzstan. The impoverished country is as firmly within the Russian fold as any other, but the country’s mixed political system, relatively free media and past flirtations with the West make it an awkward fit within Moscow’s sphere of influence.
Turning to his views on the state of the news industry, Kiselyov ventured the notion that the concept of free media is relative. He excoriated Western journalism standards as a “myth” used to foist same-sex marriage and other hegemonic agendas onto countries such as Russia.
“Freedom of speech exists in Russia. In Russia you can say, ‘I don’t love Putin but I love gays,’ and nothing will happen to you. If in Britain you said, ‘Let’s hand London over to the Germans’ I can only imagine what would happen to you.”
In an interview with RFE/RL last week, 85-year-old President Emeritus and former head of the Moscow State University Journalism Department, Yasen Zasursky poured scorn on Kiselyov, whose rise to international infamy was assured in 2013, when he called for homosexuals’ organs to be burned to avoid their use in medical transplants.
Zasursky’s comments also appeared to dismiss Kiselyov’s arcane views about the production and reproduction distinction between former Soviet journalism and its Western version.
"He was an interesting journalist. Was. He was a very smart young man. He wrote some very smart things. But now he is simply repeating various ideas. And that has nothing to do with journalism. A journalist must help people to understand events. He must not only convey information, but knowledge as well,” Zasursky said.