Sign up for PM Award Updates!

Russian independent radio editor risks dismissal

November 14, 2014

The veteran editor of one of Russia’s most popular independent radio stations said Friday he risks dismissal in a vote next week over a conflict with its owner, state-controlled Gazprom Media.

Alexei Venediktov, the chief editor of Echo of Moscow radio station, said the board of directors will vote on November 21 on his future at the talk radio that is a must-listen for many opposition-minded Muscovites.

The board of directors has also tabled votes on the 24-year-old radio’s editorial stance and broadcasting format.

Echo of Moscow is partly owned by the state-controlled Gazprom Media holding but has retained an independent stance in its news coverage and is one of the few broadcasters to criticise the Kremlin.

Venediktov, who has been chief editor since 1998, said he believed his future was in the balance because he refused to sanction the dismissal of a journalist who wrote an insulting Twitter comment on the accidental death of the son of President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov this month.

The journalist, Alexander Plyushchev, was dismissed at the order of the chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom Media, Mikhail Lesin, bypassing Venediktov.

“I suppose that this is about firing me, that I refused to carry out an order,” Venediktov told the TASS news agency.

The radio station received a formal warning from the state media watchdog in late October over a broadcast about Ukrainian soldiers defending the airport in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine from pro-Russian separatists. The warning said the broadcast contained “information justifying war crimes.”

With his wild hair and beard and popular Twitter account, 58-year-old Venediktov is one of the most high-profile journalists in the opposition media. He has also been invited to meetings with Putin.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.