Matthew Chance of CNN writes about his interview with Vladimir Putin, some 7 years after the last one for the American news channel:
Putin […] was constantly watching CNN to see how the conflict was being reported. And he didn’t like it. He hated it […] there was no one on TV putting across the Russian version of events.
Why was there no one? Because there is no access in Russia, we were not allowed to go to the Russian side of the conflict zone. No Russian officials were available to talk to us, as usual. Georgia played the media game, Russia did not.
A decision was taken then to change tack, to engage with the Western media, to aggressively argue Russia’s side. The Kremlin, which constantly complains of a bad press, could have learned this lesson years ago. But hopefully they see the value of us now. Doesn’t mean we agree with them, or that appearing on CNN will convert the West to Russia’s line.
Putin has made a few allegations, some of them ringing more true than others. But their truthness is not as important as the fact that they have been heard by many people that until yesterday could only get their own Government’s propaganda. Now they can see an actual “foreign” and “enemy” leader speak his mind in front of the cameras, a person and not just a communique’.
Anyway, the simple fact that the American and Russian versions of events cannot be both right at the same time, could and should encourage a little more critical thinkings…and that cannot be bad.
Interestingly, the lesson of how to avoid a bad press has been recently learned by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China too.
Next in line should be Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Mohammed Ahmadinejad of Iran. For some reason neither of them has realized his potential in terms of worldwide media coverage. Perhaps Putin’s experience will change that: they do look like great TV material and if only they’d abandon the more hard-to-digest bits of their ideologies, many more people would watch (and listen) to them.