Boris-bashing has faded to only a distant memory for the Russian media, who are cheerleading openly for the president ahead of next week's pivotal runoff election.
Years of often sharp criticism of Boris Yeltsin's policies and personal behavior gave way to generally positive coverage before the first round of voting June 16. And it has turned into a Soviet-style daily chronicle of good guys vs. bad guys now that the choice has come down to four more years of Yeltsin or a return to communism.You only need to pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV newscast to know it: The public's watchdogs have turned into Yeltsin's attack dogs.
Freed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian media once had a field day with Yeltsin, ridiculing his alleged drunkenness, criticizing his harsh economic policies and denouncing his war against secessionists in Chechnya. All that has changed.
The latest evidence came Tuesday, when Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov's proposal for a coalition government was gleefully scorned by Russian newspapers as a proposal from a loser.
Calling the idea a "fantasy," the respected daily Izvestia ran pictures of unwilling potential partners in the coalition on its front page, along with their refusals.
It was only slightly less subtle than the paper's recent political coverage - for example, a prominently displayed photograph, without caption, that showed a boy making a face at a Zyuganov poster.
NTV, the influential private network that led the way in hard-hitting coverage of Yeltsin's un-popular economic reforms and the war in Chechnya, now is noted for its red-baiting reports and interviews. Yeltsin's record, meanwhile, apparently is no longer deemed relevant.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the one-sided coverage is no surprise.
"Ever since the Bolsheviks seized the first telegraph station, the Communists have strangled the press," it said in a report.