An open letter to Private Eye

Our writer is the subject of the Hackwatch column in the latest edition of Private Eye, after attending a dinner of the Valdai Group. Here she responds to her critics

Related Topics

Dear Hackwatch,

You have used my attendance at a dinner with the Russian President, which is an annual event for members of the Valdai group of international Russia specialists - and the fact that I have attended, and reported on, such occasions in the past - to paint me as a latter-day fellow-traveller and apologist for Vladmir Putin.

Let me ask this. If I were a foreign specialist on British politics invited to a group dinner with the Prime Minister, or a specialist on American affairs, invited to a dinner and question and answer session with the US President, would you regard this as evidence that I was in hock to that particular interest, or would you rather, as I suspect, see such invitations as a bit of a feather in my cap, a recognition of my expertise and perhaps even influence in my field?

The Valdai group includes Russianists from around the world, and more researchers and academics – including from Georgetown University and Harvard – than journalists. As a specialist with this privileged access, I see it as my job to report what happens and what the Russian president says when we meet him. How come a Russia specialist is regarded as somehow suspect for doing her job, but no such doubts attach to a US specialist, say – a coterie to which, as a past Washington correspondent, I also belong?

I can only interpret this as evidence of the double standard that Russians – whether pro-Putin or anti-Putin - often complain of in Western, especially British, reporting of their country. Russia today is a society in flux; a new generation will come to power, and it will be quite different from those who were formed by Soviet communism. But there is such a thing as public opinion in Russia and Putin still enjoys a large measure of popular support. Without recognising this, and listening to what he has to say - as well as what the various strands of the Opposition say - your view of what is going on will be distorted.  

In your Hackwatch, you have clearly trawled the internet, selecting passages that suit your thesis and rejecting the rest. For the record, I deplored Putin’s decision to stand for the presidency again. I commented positively on last year’s post-election protests, and my notebook item last year about the TV star Xenia Sobchak – by the way, I may have been the first Western journalist to recognise her political potential – contained no suggestion at all that she would be in Putin’s camp. On the contrary, I identified her as someone who could contribute to the development of real politics in Russia – which is indeed what she is doing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower