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Whos in control?

Access to information as a crucial element in the balance of power


between media and politics
Hedwig de Smaele
The interdependent relationship of media and politics
Dependency of politics on media
All political actors whether political parties, governments, public organizations, pressure
groups or terrorist organizations have in common that they rely heavily on the media to get in
touch with the world outside their own circles. Media occupy a crucial position in between the
citizens and the political world, and the information flow between these two worlds is to a high
degree a mediated flow. Although not a totally one-way flow, the information flow is pretty
unbalanced as well. oing down are party programs, government decisions, appeals or
promises, published in the media and reported upon, commented and analyzed. oing up are the
results of opinion polls, reported on in the media !and often organized by the media themselves"
and letters to the editors !Mc#air, $%%&, p. &".
'olitical actors cannot chose not to communicate. (he need for legitimacy forces them to
communicate with the people. )n a democracy, politicians and political parties see* every four
to si+ years the consent of the voters. 'oliticians have to win trust, ma*e *nown their proposals
and achievements, or simply themselves. )n order to do so, they need media e+posure. (hey need
media. (hey need ,ournalists.
(his way of considering the relation between media and politics stresses the power and
influence of media above politics. -onceptual views such as the mediatization of politics, or
politics increasingly becoming politainment !Meyer, .//., p. &0", bear testimony to this
interpretation. A strong concept in its genre is that of the colonization of politics by the media
!Meyer, .//.". 12rgen 3abermas introduced the notion of the colonization of one societal domain
by the rules of another, as a result of which the original rules are either abrogated entirely or
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made dependent on the second set. Meyer applies this notion to the domains of politics and
media4 the sphere of politics became almost entirely dependent on the medias rules and logic.
Media logic affects the selection focus on events, persons, and conflicts5 the pro+imity rule as
well as the presentation personification, dramatization, entertainment, commodification of
!political" news. (he political time !long-term, processes" collides with media time !short-
term, deadlines" but loses, and adapts. (he result is described by Meyer !.//." as stage-managed
politics4 issueless and symbolic politics, and image building. 6emocracy became media
democracy. (he political world has surrendered voluntarily, almost eagerly it seems, driven by
power-see*ing via media e+posure4 (he leitmotif of effective spin-control is that you can only
control the media by submitting to them. !Meyer, .//., p. &.". 'oliticians outside the media
spotlights remain ignored or in the best case are used as unformed raw materials for the
medias own productions !Meyer, .//., p. &0".
Dependency of media on politics
'olitics is not powerless either. 3ence, media need politics as hard as politics need media. Media
are in constant need for news, for content. 'olitics has always been, and will be for the times
coming, a very important supplier of news, whether hard political news !issue-oriented" or soft
news in the margin, rumors and scandals surrounding politicians whether in love or business. )n
order to access news, preferably scoops, media wor*ers are prepared to obey politicians to a
sometimes unhealthy degree. Media agendas and political agendas are often fine-tuned.
(his way of considering the relation between media and politics stresses the power and
influence of politics above media. (he politicization of media is only the natural outcome of this.
'oliticization is realized mainly through staff appointments that assure politicians indirectly
informational control. 'oliticians can pressure media also by other means4 administrative control,
financial control !subsidies or financial conditions", media regulation and policy, granting or
refusing access to information, accreditation of ,ournalists, or indeed blunt manipulation and even
violence.
Access to information appears as a crucial element in the balance of power between media
and politics as information is e+actly the property of politics most wanted by the media.
(herefore it is a mighty weapon in the hands of political actors if they can decide who gets access
to what *ind of information and when.
.
Interdependency
Media need politics, and politics need media. A merger of the content !production" sector and the
distribution sector is not an aw*ward outcome of this observation. (he goals of both sectors are
united in the common goal of reaching as many people as possible4 audience for the media, voters
for the politicians. (he close alliance !voluntary, but not eagerly admitted" is obvious in concepts
such as the mediapolitical system !eg. 7assours*y, $%%%, .///". 1ournalists and politicians live
together in a mediapolitical atmosphere, in a give-and-ta*e relationship. (he citizens and their
interests are left aside in this power-balance-play between media and political actors. (o what
degree do they accept8
(he climate of acceptance brings us to the sphere of behaviors and attitudes, norms and
values, in other words culture. 9hat is the prevailing attitude in a certain society towards
information, the openness and closeness of information, the status of information8 )n order to
e+plore this topic, we introduce the concept of information culture.
The concept of information culture
Information culture
)n political science, the concept of political culture has ta*en hold strongly and is widely
elaborated on. )t has taught us that a certain political system !structure" is or must be
supported by a certain political culture as a set of attitudes, beliefs, values. 'ioneering research on
this topic was done by abriel Almond and :idney ;erba, in The Civic Culture !$%<%, originally
$%=0". (he idea, however, is not new. 'lato already taught us that forms of government
!oligarchy, democracy, aristocracy, tyranny" differ according to dispositions of men !:t>rig, $%<&,
vol. ), p. $&&". Analogous concepts such as academic culture or business culture are
increasingly being used. ?y analogy we can also spea* of a media culture or, in more general
terms, an information culture. @i*e political culture, information culture cannot be separated
from culture as a whole !?rown, $%A%, p. B5 6eutsch, $%AB, p. .0A". ?ut while political culture
deals with orientations and attitudes towards authority and distribution of authority, information
culture is geared toward media and deals with attitudes towards information and the distribution
of information.
0
-ulture is a difficult concept to grasp. (he danger of cultural determinism is always looming
somewhere. 3owever, it is not because the concept may be difficult or even dangerous, that it has
no meaning or no use. -ulture provides a lin* both between present, past and future !vertical
dimension" and between different subsystems within society !horizontal dimension". 3ence, we
consider the media system as an integral part of the broader societal system. (he media system is
a social system, encompassing media-institutions, media wor*ers !,ournalists", the public, the
politicians and news sources as well as the relations between all these actors, settled by laws,
institutions and norms. McCuail !$%%B, p. ." defines the media system as a social institution,
with its own distinctive set of norms and practices but with the scope of its activities sub,ect to
definition and limitation by the wider society. Dn the one hand, the media system operates
according to intrinsic values and strives for autonomy. Dn the other hand, and at the same time, it
is not an isolated system but it operates in close connection with the respective political,
economical, and ,uridical systems as it is grounded in basically the same culture. -ulture, here,
is considered a set of values, norms and beliefs that shape behaviour, as shared by a !relatively
large section of" society !horizontal" and transmitted from one generation into another !vertical".
(he concept of culture supposes a great deal of inertia and continuity otherwise the term would
not be able to e+ist !9yman, .///, p. $/=". (riandis !$%%&, B" has put the vertical dimension
aptly4 -ulture is to society, what memory is to individuals.
Universalism as a measure for information culture
9hat values do determine the prevailing attitude towards information8 (he values of
universalism versus particularism appear as a useful tool to describe this particular attitude. )n
short and in general, the distinction between universalism and particularism comes down to the
precedence of general rules, codes, values and standards over particular needs and claims of
friends and relations !universalism" or, in contrast, the precedence of human friendship, relations,
and situations over rules !particularism".
)n the original, theological sense, universalism points to the belief that ultimately all man will
be saved by ods grace. 'articularism, on the other hand, holds that only the chosen will be
saved. )n the sociological sense, the pair universalism-particularism refers first and foremost to
the !dichotomic" pattern-variables of (alcott 'arsons !$%%/". (hese are inherently patterns of
cultural value-orientation, but they become integrated both in personalities and in societal
B
systems. )n the ontological or philosophical-anthropological sense, as underlying the Erench
Fevolution and the Gnlightenment, universalism sees all man as eHual. Iniversalism then is the
treatment of all persons ali*e based upon general criteria and not upon any special or uniHue
characteristics of the persons themselves !Drum et al., $%%%, p. &0B" whereas particularism is
the treatment of people as special individuals, based on their personal features, rather than as
members of some broader class or group !Drum et al., $%%%, p. &.<".
'articularistic cultures are in the terminology of Gdward (. 3all !$%<%" high context
communication environments while universalist cultures are low context communication
environments. -onte+t, in this sense, has to do with how much you need to *now before you can
communicate effectively. )n high-conte+t cultures most of the information is either in the
physical conte+t or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, e+plicit,
transmitted part of the message. )n low-conte+t cultures, in contrast, the mass of information is
vested in the e+plicit code !3all, $%<%, p. %$". -onseHuently, high-conte+t cultures communicate
intensively within their in-groups who are aware of the conte+t while out-groups are largely left
out !particularism". @ow-conte+t cultures dont differentiate as much as high-conte+t cultures
between in- and out-groups5 information is freely available for both in- and out-group members
!universalism". More specifically, we can state that information is considered a universal right
for all individuals without distinction in the universalistic theory and a particularistic right or a
privilege for certain groups or individuals in the particularistic theory.
A measure for universalism
At the university of hent a measure for universalism was composed on the basis of the $%%$
9orld ;alues :urvey Huestionnaire !;erbeeren, .///5 ;erbeeren J de :maele, .//B". :i+
Huestions were combined into the variable universalism
$
and chec*ed up for .B 9estern and
Gastern Guropean countries as well as for the I.:. and (ur*ey. (he results show a clear pattern.
Eirstly, there is a stri*ing Gast-9est opposition, only bro*en through by Austria !which had until
the $%=/s an ambiguous status" and 'ortugal !which suffered under a long political isolation".
$
(he Huestions appeal to the normative as well as the ontological dimension of universalism. #ormative dimension4
$. KDn this list are various groups of people. :ort out any that you would #D( want as neighboursL. .. 9hen ,obs
are scarce, employers should give priority to !Kown nationalityL" over immigrants. 0. iven a list of Hualities which
children should be encouraged to learn at home. 9hich are especially important8 Dntological dimension4 B. K9hy
are there people who live in need8L !reasons for poverty". &. (wo secretaries, same ,ob, one is Huic*er, more
efficient, more reliable and earns &/ M a wee* more4 fairNunfair. =. 9hich of these geographical groups would you
say you belong to first of all, and ne+t8
&
(he #orthern countries !#etherlands, 6enmar*, :weden and #orway" are the most universal,
followed by the central group !Erance, reat-?ritain, ?elgium, 9est-ermany, )reland, and the
I.:." and, at last, the :outhern countries !:pain, )taly, 'ortugal". (he e+-communist countries of
Gastern Gurope all have lower values on universalism than the :outhern countries of 9estern
Gurope !;erbeeren, .///, p. =-$&".
Eigure $4 (he score on Iniversalism in Gurope !based on the 9orld ;alues :urvey"
:ource4 ;erbeeren J de :maele, .//B
(hese findings are confirmed in other studies as well. :uvarierol !.//B" has studied the
communication habits of Guropean -ommission officials and observed a clear #ord-:outh
dimension according to the degree of universalism causing different communication behavior
patterns. )n general, a parallel between universalism and transparency of governance
interpreted as openness of government information can be observed. (he #orthern countries,
which score high on universalism according to different approaches !:uvarierol, .//B5 ;erbeeren,
=
.///" are frontrunners on the domain of transparency of governance as well. :weden !together
with Einland" was the first Guropean country to install in $AA= the Act on the Ereedom of
'ublishing and the Fight of Access to Dfficial 6ocuments. :weden was followed by the other
#orthern countries #orway and 6enmar*, as well as universalist #etherlands and Erance.
(ransparency of governance in -entral and :outhern Guropean countries was the sub,ect of
legislative acts only much later, and legislation is still inadeHuately implemented.
Case: Information culture in Russia
(he concept of information culture, inspired by the values of universalism whether particularism,
will be illustrated by the case of communist and post-communist Fussia. 9hat values, and
conseHuently what attitude towards information, prevails in Fussia8
Information culture in the Soviet Union
6espite its theoretical universal ambitions, -ommunist Fussia was particularistic rather than
universalistic4 )mportant features of the @eninist type were that it was not based on citizenship
and that it was not, despite its protestations, universalistic in the real sense of the word, because
entitlement to social benefits depended upon being a loyal wor*er or employee of the state write
MareO, Musil and FabuOic !$%%B, p. <0". (he sociologist )gor Pon !$%%=, p. $%A" points at the
priority of the particularistic norm of group privilege over the universalistic principle of human
rights. (he Drwellian phrase all animals are eHual but some animals are more eHual than others
reveals as nothing else the discrepancy between the universalist claims and the particularist
reality. (he empirical study based on the 9orld ;alues :urvey of $%%$ reveals for early post-
communist Fussia a wea* score on the value of universalism and confirms the failed universal
ambition of Mar+ism in Fussia !see Eigure $".
(he :oviet Inion was a closed society4 closed for information from outside !e.g. ,amming of
foreign radio stations, limited import of foreign boo*s and ,ournals, small percentage of foreign
television programmes" but also reluctant to release inside information to its own citizens.
1ournalists !who were carefully selected and educated themselves" had e+tremely limited access
to information in the first place, and even the information acHuired had to pass several strict
!mainly political-ideological" filters before appearing in the news. A limited flow of information
A
was the norm. )n addition, information has never been available to everyone on the same
conditions. )n sharp contrast with the theoretical ideal of the classless society, the :oviet Inion
was characterized by a strong vertical segregation of society with the elite !party leaders" on the
one hand and the mass on the other hand. #ovosel !$%%&" spea*s of first class and second
class citizens. (he first class was a privileged class, which privileges were institutionalised by
the nomenlatura system. (hese privileges not only encompassed material privileges !such as
housing, food, health care, and education" but also enhanced access to information, going from
the right to see forbidden films or read forbidden boo*s !that is, films and boo*s not
considered suitable for general distribution" !e.g. ?enn, $%%., p. %" to the receipt of the special
foreign news bulletins, put together on a daily basis by (A:: and distributed on differently
coloured paper according to the degree of detail and the targeted readers !@endvai, $%<$, p. $.%-
$0$". Although the highly-placed officials obviously could claim access to more information,
they too received information on a need-to-*now basis !?auer et al., $%&%, p. B0".
(he overall result was an information deficit. )nformation was one of the most sought after
commodities in the :oviet Inion !Gllis, $%%%, p. =". )nformal networ*s, oral communication and
rumours filled the vacuum !?auer J leicher, $%=B5 )n*eles J ?auer, $%&%, p. $=0-$=&5 ?anai,
$%%A, p. .&.5 -hilton, $%%<, p. ./". 'arallel to the official information circuit, and on the analogy
of the blac* mar*et, an unofficial information circuit !eg. samizdat" was functioning. ?auer et
al. !$%&%, p. AB-A<" spea* of informal ad,ustive mechanisms developed by the population as a
reaction to the high degree of control and centralization. (he use of personal networ*s and
informal contacts to obtain sparsely available goods, services, and information and to sidestep
formal procedures, is indicated by the Fussian word !lat or the term "IS !znaomstva I svyazi,
acHuaintances and contacts" !@edeneva, $%%<, p. $".
Information culture in post-communist #ussia
(he particularist orientation can be found until today in all aspects of societal organization.
Fussian political life, for e+ample, is highly characterized by particular in-groups versus out-
groups4 different clans !whether chea$s or oligarchs" fight each other and value their particular
interests higher than the common interest. )n economics, personal, particularistic relations, often
lin*ed with corruption and privileges, are still more important than professional, impersonal,
universal mar*et relations, procedures and institutions !?ryant, $%%B, p. A/".
<
)n the transition from communism to post-communism, privileged access to information
played a crucial role in the process of privatizations, which became *nown as insider
privatizations !e.g. Ari*, $%%%, p. &.-&0". :tate property was privatized according to rules written
by the elite for itself !Androunas, $%%0, p. B&". (ogether with @edeneva !$%%<, p. $<B-<&" we
can state that !lat played a role in the first privatizations. 9hereas in the :oviet Inion
information concerned mainly what, where and how to obtain scarce goods, during the transition
period it also pertained to information about money, business, laws and ta+es, licenses, loans and
other scarce inside information !@edeneva, $%%<, p. ./%".
'rivileged information played an important role in the transition process, but remains
important also in post-communist Fussia, where the right to information and inadmissibility of
censorship are included in the $%%0 constitution !Art. .%" and in the $%%$ Fussian Eederation
@aw on the Mass Media !Art. $". (he @aw on Mass Media assigns the right to receive
information only directly to the mass media, while Fussian citizens have the right to receive true
information on the activities of state organs, public organisations and officials via the mass media
!Art. 0<.$". :tate officials, in turn, are obliged to inform the media about their activities4 on
demand, but also actively via press conferences and the distribution of statistical and other
materials !Art. 0<..". Fefusing information is allowed only in case of state, commercial or other
law-protective secrets !Art. B/.$". Fefusals must be clearly communicated !Art. B/..". (he 'enal
-ode !Art. $BB" fi+es high penalties for unlawful refusal of information and for hindering the
professional activity of ,ournalists !"aonodatel$stvo #ossi%so% &ederatsii o sredstvah massovo%
informatsii' $%%%, p. .A%".
#otwithstanding the law, restricted access to information is still common practice. 'anellists
of an )FGQ !.//$, p. $%=" meeting to discuss the media situation in Fussia agreed unanimously
that access to some publicly relevant information is not free4 authorities continue to view
information as their property, and want to control access. )n the annual reports of violations of
,ournalists rights !compiled by the lasnost 6efence Eoundation since $%%0", the violation of
,ournalists right to information namely denials of information, refusals of accreditation and
admission to press conferences and certain locations - remains a highly Huoted problem.
.
:urveys
cited by :vitich and :hiryaeva !$%%A, p. $&A" confirm this finding as well as the deterioration of
.
6ata from $%%< onwards can be found on the 9orld 9ide 9eb4 http4NNwww.gdf.ruNmonitorN. Garlier reports are
published in boo* form by 'rava -helove*a in Moscow. )n .//0, for e+ample, $/% infringements of the right to
information are recorded on a total of $$$% registered conflicts. )n $%%=, .AA violations were listed by the lasnost
6efense Eoundation5 =A of them concerned a restricted access to information !Eond 7ashchity lasnosti, $%%A".
%
the situation throughout the $%%/s. Gspecially difficult to obtain are bare facts, figures, and
documents. @ittle has changed in this respect since :oviet times. (he e+ecutive branch has the
worst reputation with regard to openness of information, followed by the security services,
commercial, state and financial companies. :tate organisations have generally become !compared
to the :oviet Inion" less transparent with less clearly defined functions and competences !:vitich
and :hiryaeva, $%%A, p. $&B-$=/".
(he lac* of access to information provo*ed the 'residential 1udicial -hamber for )nformation
6isputes and the Inion of Fussian 1ournalists in $%%& to issue a ,oint recommendation on the
freedom of mass information and the responsibility of ,ournalists !'rice et al., .//., p. 00%-
0B.".
0
According to this statement, only parliament is sufficiently open to the press. As far as the
presidential structures, government circles, and administrative offices are concerned, however,
they are sealed off from ,ournalists5 they are more closed than the former party committees
!'rice et al., .//., p. 0B$". (he numerous press centres, press services, press secretaries, and
others of their il* that have been established everywhere, did not brea* through this tide. Dn the
contrary4 )n theory, they were intended to facilitate ,ournalists access to information. )n practice,
they have turned into insurmountable barriers and supply only the information that is of interest
to the given structure. !'rice et al., .//., p. 0B$".
-ommercial and financial companies hide behind the new commercial secret
!ommerchesaya ta%na" while state bureaucracies have state secrets and military structures
military secrets at their disposal. (he vague notion of protection of state and other law-
protective secrets, including commercial secrets, thwarts and subverts the general right to
information as guaranteed by the $%%0 -onstitution and the $%%$ @aw on Mass Media.
)nadmissible misuse of freedom of mass communication !Art. B of the Mass Media @aw"
includes, among others, the use of mass media for purposes of divulging information maing up
a state secret or any other law-protective secret. (he law on Mass Media gives no further
description of law-protective secrets but Art. .%-B of the Fussian -onstitution stipulates that the
list of information constituting a state secret must be determined by federal law. :uch a law on
state secrets was adopted by the :tate 6uma on 1uly .$, $%%0 !amended in Dctober $%%A". Art. &
of this law contains a list of information categories that could be classified as state secrets
0
1oint Fecommendation of the 'residential 1udicial -hamber for )nformation 6isputes and the Inion of Fussian
1ournalists on the Ereedom of Mass )nformation and the Fesponsibility of 1ournalists of $& 1une $%%&, translated by
Erances Eoster from #ossi%saya (azeta, $$ 1uly $%%&, for publication in )ost-Soviet *edia +aw , )olicy
-ewsletter, .A :eptember $%%&, at. %, and reprinted in 'rice et al., .//., p. 00%-0B..
$/
!)erechen$ svedeni%' otnesennyh gosudarstvenno% ta%ne.. (hese categories are, for e+ample,
military information, information on foreign politics and economics, science and technology,
intelligence /rasvedyvatel$no%. and counter-intelligence !ontrrazvedyvatel$no%", the fight against
criminal activities !operativno-rozysno% deyatel$nosti" and the organization of the protection of
state secrets. Dnly broadly defined, these categories are open for divergent interpretations.
B
Art. %
of the law reHuires the president to elaborate and approve the list of information already classified
as a state secret via the publication of a public !R" decree.
&
As such, a clear-cut hierarchical system
for classifying information as secret was established in Fussia4 the federal law defines the list of
information categories comprising state secrets5 the presidential decree defines its own list that
outlines each category of secret information indicated in the law. Dn the basis of the presidents
list, ministries are permitted to restrict access to specific information under their control !'avlov,
.///". A reference to politics or ideologies does not occur any more, but the broad categories of
secret information do allow for a large measure of control. Eor e+ample, any information
regarding the Ministry of 6efence and the military-industrial comple+ could fall under the rubric
of military secrets. )nformation in this area, therefore, remains difficult to obtain. )van
Ponovalov !.//., p. &A", military correspondent of (;: (elevision, even observes a change for
the worse.
Ponovalov !.//., p. B%" sees the only remedy in maintaining close and personal connections
with the 6efence Ministry and the security services. (he observation of ;ladimir Grmolin !.//.,
p. A" is identical4 1ournalists dont receive rights by laws, but by the personal preference of !state"
officials and press services. ?y law, the media are eHual, but by preference some media are more
eHual than others. -ode words in the process of information gathering in Fussia remain trust,
relations, and integration !?anai, $%%A, p. .B.". Authorities have relations with some media
professionals, who en,oy privileges to receive information unavailable to the rest of the media.
Among the privileged media in the Seltsin era were, according to ulyaev !$%%=, p. $B", news
agencies such as )(AF-(A:: and Interfas, newspapers such as 0ommersant and Izvestiya, and
wee*lies such as Argumenti i &aty1 (he most important private channel #(; has had changing
B
Art. A of the law on state secrets, on the other hand, contains information that cannot be considered secret, such as
information on natural disasters that can endanger the health and safety of the citizens, ecological and demographic
data, information on privileges and advantages of state functionaries, human right violations, information on the
presidents health, etc. )n the :oviet Inion, all this information was considered secret. Ma*ing this information
e+plicitly public can be considered a brea* with the past.
&
(he presidential decree of 0/ #ovember $%%& !with amendments of .B 1anuary $%%<, = 1une, $/ :eptember .//$
en .% May .//." e+tended the list of categories with, among others, information on nuclear weapons and the
preparation of international treaties !Aslamazyan, $%%%, p. B".
$$
relationships with the president and his administration !from neutral or opposition in $%%B-
$%%& to supporter during the $%%= presidential elections, and opposition in .///". 9ith each
phase the level of access to information shifted accordingly. )n the early years, when #(;
adopted an oppositional stand, access to the Premlin was forbidden for #(;-,ournalists on
occasions !Dmri 6aily 6igest, $0 Eebruary $%%=". )n :eptember $%%=, however, the
collaborating channel received a broadcast license for the entire fourth channel by presidential
decree and en,oyed privileges such as the same transmission rates as state channels and more
access to information. Acting in opposition again, the channel saw its privileges, and ultimately
its future, disappear. A more recent illustration is provided by the Premlins handling of the
Purs* disaster in the summer of .///. Media coverage was restricted, only one ,ournalist from
the state-controlled television channel, F(F, was granted full access to the scene. Ponovalov
!.//., p. &$" calls the Purs* disaster crucial for dividing ,ournalists into ours !svoi" and others
!chuzhih". 1ournalists of state media, li*e F(F, are ours and conseHuently en,oy enhanced
access to information. Ponovalov also ran*s the obedient media according to their pro+imity to
the Premlin !for television stations, in declining order4 F(F, DF(, #(;, (;--enter".
;ery few ,ournalists or media organs claim their right to receive information before court
!:vitich and :hiryaeva, $%%A, p. $=/". (hey prefer to overcome the information barriers by other
means, such as maintaining privileged relations or bribing officials and openly purchasing
information from them. 1ournalists also only rarely send formal letters of inHuiry. Eormal inHuiry,
moreover, appears as a highly ineffective method in comparison with personal contacts and
physical visits to institutions and officials. An e+perimental study in ;oronezh is illustrative4
where appro+imately A/T of formal letters of enHuiry resulted in the refusal of information, A/T
of physical and personal visits to officials, in contrast, led to acceptance and access to
information !Arapova, .//0". And, if these methods Ubac* doors, privileged relations, personal
contactsV are beyond them, they Uthe ,ournalistV resort to fabrication and con,ecture according to
the 'residential 1udicial -hamber for )nformation 6isputes and the Inion of Fussian 1ournalists
in their $%%& ,oint recommendation on the freedom of mass information and the responsibility of
,ournalists !'rice et al., .//., p. 0B$".

(he latter, thus, assigns responsibility for the
dissemination of untruthful information in the media to the closed administration4 Inreliability,
incompleteness, and distortion of information very often results from the inaccessibility of
sources of information !'rice et al., .//., p. 0B$".
$.
Conclusion
'olitical actors need media institutions and ,ournalists in order to get media e+posure and to
establish communication with their voters. Media institutions and ,ournalists need politicians in
order to access information and generate content for their audiences. Access to information
appears as a crucial element in this balance of power between media and politics. -ontrol over
the information flow is mostly in the hands of the political actors as they can decide who gets
access to what information and when. Media wor*ers and ,ournalists, from their side, can play it
hard !no information is no media e+posure" or can see* alliances with politicians. Felations
between them are established in a general climate or culture.
(he concept of information culture can be a useful concept in trying to understand why things
are as they are. 9hat is the prevailing attitude towards information and the distribution of
information in a given society8 9hat are the basic values underlying attitudes and situations8 (he
value pair of universalism and particularism appears in this conte+t as a powerful e+planatory
tool. Iniversalism can be measured on the individual level as well as on the level of a society, or
country. -lusters of countries can be distinguished according to their particular degree of
universalism. 9e focused on the particular case of communist and post-communist Fussia to
illustrate the concept of information culture.
)t ma*es sense to state that the general information climate is shared by politicians and
,ournalists and to a certain degree by the public at large. Feferring again to the ;oronezh study, it
appears that out of their own very few ,ournalists used formal letters, but indeed used personal
contacts instead. -onseHuently, access to information was not really recognized as a problem by
them while outsiders, in contrast, might indeed detect a problem of access to information.
Iniversalists might have a hard time in a particularist environment.
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