Russia: IFJ joins wave of solidarity with Kommersant editorial staff

13 journalists working for Russian newspaper Kommersant -the whole politics desk- resigned in protest over the dismissal of two colleagues for reporting on a possible political shake-up in Moscow.

A picture taken on May 20, 2019, shows Kommersant daily newspaper issues. Credits: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Russian affiliate, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), joined the wave of solidarity with the newspaper’s editorial staff and condemned the intervention of shareholders in editorial policy as a violation of freedom of information.

Leading journalists Maxim Ivanov and Ivan Safronov, who have worked for the paper for 10 years, wrote on April 17 an article about a possible shift of the speaker of the parliament's upper house. Almost one month after, both journalists were forced to quit. Ivan Safronov confirmed this in a Facebook post, where he said they were both forced to leave the newspaper due to shareholders’ complaints about the article.

Just a few hours after the dismissals, up to 13 journalists of the newspapers’ politics section resigned in solidarity with their two colleagues. Management reacted swiftly, barring their access to their work computers. In addition, Kommersant’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Zhelonkin denied that the paper’s owner was behind the dismissals and said that they were motivated by a “violation of journalistic standards”.

This accusation was denied by around 180 other journalists working for the newspaper, who signed a letter defending their colleagues and claiming that “there was no breach of journalism standards, but pressure on journalists”.

The RUJ said in a statement: “We express our deep concerns over the dismissals at Kommersant newspaper. We believe that the intervention of shareholders in the editorial policy of the publication violates the right of citizens to freedom of speech and freedom of information enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The RUJ will monitor closely the situation. It expresses solidarity with the journalists and its availability to help them with legal assistance”.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Kommersant’s decision to fire journalists over an article the shareholders do not like is an attack on media freedom and the constitutional right of freedom of expression. We express our solidarity with all editorial staff and urge the management to reinstate our colleagues and to respect journalists’ editorial independence



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