Editors quit Russian media group after Putin family reports

13th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Three top editors at Russia's RBC media group, which has reported on the business interests of President Vladimir Putin's family, quit Friday in the latest blow to the country's beleaguered media industry.

The group's daily newspaper recently published high-profile stories about the business interests of people close to Putin including his reported son-in-law.

The announcement came after the group controlled by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said in April that editor-in-chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya was set to leave to take a sabbatical to study at Stanford.

Her temporary leave was then widely linked to Kremlin pressure on Prokhorov over the media group's increasingly independent stance and investigative reporting.

In April, Prokhorov's offices were also searched in what was believed to be a signal to the Kremlin-friendly tycoon to rein in his media managers.

The three editors leaving are: Osetinskaya, editor-in-chief of the RBC media group; Roman Badanin, editor-in-chief of the group's news agency; and Maxim Solyus, editor-in-chief of its daily newspaper.

"Recently we have talked a lot about how to develop RBC further and in these conversations we have been unable to reach a common opinion on important issues. That is why we have decided to part ways," RBC general director Nikolai Molibog said in a statement.

The group declined to comment on whether the editors departed under pressure from the Kremlin.

Company spokesman Yegor Timofeyev said Osetinskaya would begin her studies at Stanford in September, declining further comment.

Writing on Facebook, Osetinskaya thanked her supporters but said she would not make any comment.

She added that she was "shocked" to see such an outpouring of support. "That means it was not in vain," she added.

Before taking the helm at RBC in late 2013, Osetinskaya was editor-in-chief of the Russian version of Forbes and was also in charge of the website of Vedomosti.ru, Russia's top liberal daily.

Media observers say that during her tenure Osetinskaya whipped the RBC group into shape, building it into one of Russia's most widely-read media outlets.

Following the search of Prokhorov's offices in April, the Kremlin denied involvement and Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday the presidential administration had nothing to do with Osetinskaya's departure.

The group did not immediately say who would replace Osetinskaya.

Last November Dow Jones and Pearson announced plans to sell their stakes in Vedomosti, opening the way for local businessman Damian Kudryavtsev and making the newspaper more vulnerable to Kremlin pressure.

Critics accuse Putin of steadily suppressing independent media and opposition parties since coming to power in 2000.

The crackdown intensified after he returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012 following huge protests against his rule.


© 2016 AFP

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