The reaction across the globe to Russia’s anti-gay laws has been vocal and swift, but Anton Krasovsky’s experience offers insight into an issue that will most likely play out across the world’s media during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Krasovsky, fired from Russia’s KontrTV when he disclosed that he is gay, thinks the Kremlin has been surprised by the reaction in the West. “This anti-gay law wasn’t supposed to provoke such a hue and cry. No one expected such a worldwide response. People in the Kremlin feel uncomfortable about being involved in this matter, but they can’t back down,” he tells Variety.
Vladimir Putin was elected last year for his third term as president — an election disputed by many opposition figures. Since then, Russia has become a more repressive and less tolerant society, Krasovsky says, driven by siloviki, a name given to former members of the security services and the military. They are Putin supporters who are now in positions of power in politics and business. “It began right after Putin’s return to the presidency. Maybe he didn’t instigate it, but siloviki got the feeling that they had won the fight, and have started to take their revenge.”
Though there have been calls for boycotts of Russian products and the Winter Olympics, the newsman says, “I am against any kind of boycott. On the contrary: The Sochi Olympics should be converted into a festival of tolerance. The colors of the national uniforms should be changed to rainbow, rainbow flags should be taken together with national ones, and people should cross the stadium with their partners.”
Krasovsky believes the solution lies in honest discussions. “We should help Russian gays, and educate straight Russians: They should be told that gays are neither brutes nor maniacs, but Olympic champions. There is hatred of gay people because of ignorance. Ignorant people should be taught.”
He was editor in chief at the Kremlin-controlled KontrTV, and spoke of being gay during a show about Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law in January. It is impossible to have a fair debate in the Russian media about LGBT rights, Krasovsky says. Homophobia is part of the government message, and the vast majority of mass media is controlled, indirectly or directly, by the state.
“Television has turned to stupid propaganda,” he says, adding that the work of a broadcast journalist in Russia has become “unreal.”
“There is no freedom of expression (in the mainstream media). There is some freedom of expression on Facebook pages, minor websites, (radio station) Echo of Moscow, and (independent TV channel) Dozhd, but there is none on the rest of TV,” he says.
As for being openly gay in the media, “It is a violation of a secret rule: You can be homosexual and no one will interfere in your private life — but you shouldn’t talk openly about it. The equality of relationships — the equal value of love — has yet to be accepted.”