Kommersant's political editors resign in protest
The entire political department of the Russian business newspaper Kommersant has handed in its resignation after two journalists were sacked. The latter had reported that Russia's Federal Council leader would be demoted to head of the state pension fund. What does the case say about this paper owned by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov, and about press freedom in Russia?
Media owners have too many good friends
The close ties between media owners and the Russian state pose a threat to press freedom, writes Novaya Gazeta:
“What's special about Russian state capitalism is that the media owners have countless ties to government officials whose friends and assets also form part of an intricate web. Professional journalism means the media reporting on the events in the country without ulterior motives. As the Kommersant case shows, this is impossible: whatever you write about, you risk hurting the interests of the media owners' clientele and being fired for it. Russian censorship has changed: whereas in the past you simply had to observe a thick red line, nowadays there are all kinds of randomly set traps. Only propagandists who work their way down a pre-defined list of topics can thrive here.”
Journalism just business nowadays
The conflict is an indication of how Russian media are no more than business assets for their owners these days, writes Dmitry Kamyshev, who was himself an editor at Kommersant from 1992 to 2012, in Vedomosti:
“Ever since Usmanov acquired Kommersant, dealings with journalists have been purely businesslike in nature. As if the staff were no more than wheels in a huge mechanism, no different to traders or merchandisers. And because Russian capitalism is state capitalism, for the owners of the publishing house the position of the state or its representatives has become a key factor in every conflict over an 'incorrect' article.”