Staunton,November 4 – Nearly three out of four Russians told Levada Center pollstersthat the first they had heard about torture in Russian prisons was when thesociologists asked them about it, and more than one in three – 35 percent – saidthey accepted the mistreatment of inmates as something normal.
Onthe one hand, Denis Volkov of the polling agency says, these results highlightthe reality that even when something is covered in the best media outlets inMoscow, a large share of Russians don’t follow it because they rely on othersources where the story either is ignored or played down (rbc.ru/politics/04/11/2018/5bdafb3d9a79475fbbb5cd38?from=main).
And on the other,they reflect public attitudes not just about torture but about any negativephenomena. Russians are ready to accept reports about individual problems butnot to generalize on the basis even of repeated stories about what is going on,a disturbing echo of Soviet media practice where criticism was permissible butgeneralization was prohibited.
Other experts withwhom the RBC journalists spoke have a different take. Asmik Novikov, the headof research for the Public Verdict Foundation, says that “torture is a verynarrow them and to expect the overwhelming majority to be up to date on it isincorrect. This isn’t something which disturbs everyone.”
“Our society,” hecontinues, “still shows a high level of tolerance to force and tortures.”Individual cases may attract attention and criticism but the broader phenomenonremains unexamined and unconsidered.
And Bulat Mukhamedzhanov of the Zoneof Law Organization adds that not only do the official media not cover suchthings but the prison system itself does everything it can to hide what is goingon from the outside.There is no public controlover the prison system, and that is exactly how the jailers want it to remain.
The RBC news agency said it hadasked the federal penal authorities for a comment but hadn’t gotten a response.