Everything has a breaking point, and for five senior editors at Russia’s leading business newspaper, enough was enough.
Banned from criticism of President Vladimir Putin among other things, senior editors quit en masse Monday in protest against what they say is censorship under new management as a long-running dispute between journalists and management came to a head, The Moscow Times reported.
Vedomosti is one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Russia, where journalists are increasingly squeezed by curbs on press freedoms and pressure from the Kremlin.
“All five deputy editors at Vedomosti are leaving the newspaper in protest over the appointment of Andrei Shmarov as editor-in-chief,” the newspaper said.
Launched in 1999, Vedomosti was co-founded and co-owned by Dutch entrepreneur Derk Sauer’s Independent Media, the London-based Financial Times and US business daily The Wall Street Journal, the report said.
It has changed hands several times since its first print run as lawmakers introduced legislation limiting foreign ownership of Russian media.
In March, the newspaper’s reporters and editors were surprised by an announcement from then-owner Demyan Kudryavtsev that he planned to sell the newspaper, the report said.
Shmarov was appointed acting editor-in-chief the same month, before the sale was finalized.
The newspaper was eventually sold to the head of a little-known regional news agency called FederalPress, Ivan Yeryomin.
Vedomosti journalists have denounced censorship under Shmarov, saying his appointment was political, the report said.
They complain they have been barred from covering negative opinion polls of President Putin, and that Shmarov interfered in coverage of oil giant Rosneft, which is run by top Putin ally Igor Sechin.
In an open letter published by The Bell, an independent Russian-language news site, all five editors said they were leaving after Shmarov was confirmed editor-in-chief.
“As acting chief editor, he ran the newsroom for almost three months and managed over that period to repeatedly violate editorial norms and guidelines adopted at Vedomosti,” they said.
“We have no other choice but to leave.”
Vedomosti journalists repeatedly complained to management about Shmarov and recently put forward an alternative candidate to lead the paper.
Nearly 70 staff members backed a colleague to be editor-in-chief, but the owners still went ahead with the appointment of Shmarov, the report said.
The outgoing editors have worked at the newspaper for around 15 years or more.
An investigation in May by several Russian news outlets, including Vedomosti, concluded that Rosneft leveraged control over the paper through debts owed by Kudryavtsev to the oil giant’s bank.