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In return, journalists tend to avoid writing critical stories about the government, thereby reducing the media's ability to pressure politicians for greater transparency and accountability.
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The Soviet Union could in no way be described as a liberal or democratic country now, nor do I think that it is terribly likely that perestroika will succeed such that the label will be thinkable any time in the near future. But at the end of history it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society. And in this respect I believe that something very important has happened in the Soviet Union in the past few years: the criticisms of the Soviet system sanctioned by Gorbachev have been so thorough and devastating that there is very little chance of going back to either Stalinism or Brezhnevism in any simple way. Gorbachev has finally permitted people to say what they had privately understood for many years, namely, that the magical incantations of Marxism-Leninism were nonsense, that Soviet socialism was not superior to the West in any respect but was in fact a monumental failure. The conservative opposition in the USSR, consisting both of simple workers afraid of unemployment and inflation and of party officials fearful of losing their jobs and privileges, is outspoken and may be strong enough to force Gorbachev's ouster in the next few years. But what both groups desire is tradition, order, and authority; they manifest no deep commitment to Marxism-Leninism, except insofar as they have invested much of their own lives in it. For authority to be restored in the Soviet Union after Gorbachev's demolition work, it must be on the basis of some new and vigorous ideology which has not yet appeared on the horizon.
In a positive change for the media landscape in recent years, a growing number of private cable and satellite television channels such as GEO and ARY, all of which broadcast from outside the country but which are widely available, provide live news coverage and a much wider variety of viewpoints than was previously available.
Authorities wield some economic influence over the media through the selective allocation of advertising, and both official and private interests reportedly pay for favorable press coverage.
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Government plans to establish a new body called the Press and Publication Regulatory Authority (PAPRA), which would supersede existing self-regulatory mechanisms, were criticized by local and international watchdog groups.
Over the past several years, military authorities have used increasingly aggressive tactics to silence critical or investigative voices in the media.
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Boris Stomakhin of the monthly Radikalnaya Politika, who has written various critical articles on Russia's actions in Chechnya, was sentenced in November to five years in prison.
The international media community expressed its shock at the October murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was renowned for her independent reporting about abuses committed in the war in Chechnya.
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International news sources are widely accessable and the internet is unrestricted by the government and used regularly by roughly 75 percent of the population.
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While the New Zealand news media is generally free and vigorous, the country's first sedition case in more than 80 years prompted debate on the implications for the news media.
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On November 18, journalist Aziza al-Mufarig of the daily Al Watan was fined 1000 dinars (US$3500) and given a three-month suspended sentence and three years probation for an article she had written that questioned the independence of a Kuwaiti judge.
In general, the Ministry of Information (MOI) does not actively interfere or restrict access to local or international news, and the Kuwaiti media are known to provide more critical and outspoken coverage of the government and politics than the rest of the region.