This week saw the end of Vedomosti’s editorial independence after 20 years as one of Russia’s most respected business newspapers. The media outlet’s new owner, Ivan Yeryemin, confirmed Tuesday the appointment of chief editor Andrei Shmarov, who is deeply implicated in censorship and closely tied to state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Most of the newspaper’s senior editors resigned in protest, and almost every other employee is now on their way out.
- Within hours of Shmarov’s formal confirmation, five of the newspaper’s deputy editors announced they were stepping down. All five had worked at Vedomosti since before 2015 when the then owners (The Financial Times, Dow Jones and Sanoma) were forced to sell. The deputy editors said they were resigning because Shmarov was not prepared to uphold Vedomosti’s journalistic standards and was willing to impose censorship. Other Vedomosti staff did not resign, but former editor Dmitry Simakov said (Rus) “absolutely everyone” — including journalists, photographers and designers — was looking for a job.
- There wasn’t long to wait before the first incident of censorship. A Vedomosti columnist said (Rus) Friday that one of his articles — about the Kremlin’s efforts to ensure a ‘yes’ vote at the upcoming referendum — was pulled overnight by Shmarov.
- The Bell’s sources have said that Rosneft press secretary Mikhail Leontiev was closely involved in the initial appointment of Shmarov earlier this year and, since 2017, Rosneft has controlled Vedomosti via a complicated chain of debt. Shmarov has admitted that he carried out censorship on the instructions of Kremlin officials and, according to The Bell’s sources, people linked to the Kremlin are currently helping Vedomosti find new editors.
Why the world should care
For many years, Vedomosti was one of the most trusted sources for Russian news, particularly for economic and business issues. Now, when reading the newspaper, you’ll need to remember that it is censored in line with the wishes of the Kremlin and Rosneft.