“Why does Russia never leak?” I asked the investigative journalist sitting opposite me in a dingy Moscow café.
Why Whistleblowers Are Rare In Russia
He took gulp of espresso coffee, then after realizing I wasn’t joking, he told me.
“Because they kill you, of course,” he said.
It was a point well made in a country where journalists, campaigners and even opposition figures have met sticky ends.
For my contact, it was that risk of retribution that accounted for the drought of information in Russia about contacts between the Trump campaign or administration officials and the Kremlin.
Indeed, the lack of life-threatening consequences for leakers in the United States may partially explain why there has been such a deluge of information from there, albeit information that is sometimes flawed, factually, that is.
Compared with the United States, Russia often feels closed, its institutions opaque, and its decisions mysterious.
With a few notable exceptions, its news media is Kremlin-controlled and slavishly follows the official line on an entire spectrum of issues from national politics to international affairs.
If any outlet dares to break ranks, such as the independent Russian-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta did recently by reporting that gay men in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya are being rounded up and tortured, consequences often follow.
In the past, several of the newspaper’s journalistic staff have been assassinated in mafia-style hits.
Its main reporter on the Chechnya gay crackdown story, Elena Milashina, faced death threats and was forced to flee the country.