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It's complicated. People seem to believe that things in other countries work exactly as in theirs. So the vast majority of people in Russia honestly believe that e.g. all American media is a puppet of the state department, and a propaganda arm of the government - just as Russian media is in Russia. Even today many are asking who paid Navalny for his investigation. If it turns out that the funding came from Western countries, this will discredit his investigation in the eyes of most people - they will think it's exactly like when the Russian government orders some bogus investigation into people they don't like. So funding Russian pro-democracy forces may backfire, and I believe Russia even has some laws against that. Needless to say, Russian TV constantly spread the hysteria about the West spending money on propaganda and other stuff in order to undermine the Russian regime and eventually "put Russia on its knees again".

This also works the other way around: people in the West don't realize that media in many autocratic regimes is simply a propaganda arm of these regimes - they believe that the media operates in the same way as in their countries, and so they are willing to take it seriously.

All that said, I do believe that having a solid source of information, that builds a reputation of being credible and objective, and is readily available in Russian language can help. But if it is funded by the US government, that alone can discredit it in the eyes of many Russians.
I guess the bottom line is - I would want the US to spend money to support democracy, but this should be done very carefully, lest we do more harm than good. I'm not sure we can trust the US government to be subtle enough.






Credible is relative. From the Russian perspective there's not credible newsmedia in the way the average person in the West considers the Western media to be credible.
On the other hand that doesn't mean that the press reports get ignored and doesn't matter.
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ChristianKl
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