Russian officials remove newspaper's 'provocative' ads

20th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Authorities on Sunday removed banners in Moscow advertising a newspaper with famous quotes that implied state decline and corruption among government employees, the paper said.

The Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper launched the advertising campaign ahead of its first issue on March 28. But authorities removed the "provocative" banners from streets in the city centre "without explanation," said a message on the paper's Facebook page.

Banners with the paper's logo featured different famous quotes, such as Benjamin Franklin's "A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges" or Fyodor Tyutchev's "Russian history before Peter the Great is one funeral service, and after Peter the Great -- one criminal case."

The paper's editor blamed the removal of banners on bureaucrats trying to censor provocative messages.

"Bureaucrats' fear of quotes from Russian classics is not new," the paper's editor Vladimir Gurevich told the RIA-Novosti agency. "This was the case in the 1980s when Moskovskiye Novosti, which fought censorship, first came out."

During perestroika, Moskovskiye Novosti was an immensely popular paper that strayed from the traditional Soviet press. It has been out of print for several years but announced a relaunch.

The weekly changed ownership several times but is now state-controlled and is part of the state-owned RIA-Novosti, and some people suspected that the removal of banners may actually be part of its promotional campaign.

"I wouldn't be surprised if removal of banners was done by the same PR firm as their creation," wrote one person in a Facebook comment.

The scandal mirrors previous decisions to take down ads by Russian Newsweek and Esquire magazines. Both featured provocative political statements and were placed in public spaces such as the Moscow metro before their removal.

© 2011 AFP

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