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Dissent in Russia
All Press Is Not Good Press in Russia

Not the Olympics, not even the events in Kiev, can slow down Putin from tightening his repressive grip on the Russian press. Yuri Fedutinov, long-time director of the broadcaster Ekho Moskvy (Echo Moscow), considered by some as one of Russia’s last remaining bastions of journalistic independence, has been sacked. And who should serve as his replacement but the former Deputy Chairwoman of the state-run Voice of Russia, of course. The BBC has the story:

Ekho Moskvy’s long-serving editor, Alexei Venediktov, has described Mr Fedutinov’s removal as “unjust and dishonest” and a “totally political decision” intended to put pressure on Ekho’s editorial policy, which he insisted would remain unchanged. However, Mr Venediktov’s position may not itself be secure as he is up for re-election next month.

Last week, Ekho Moskvy was caught up in a row over Russia’s gold medal-winning skater Yulia Lipnitskaya, when it posted remarks by a leading Kremlin critic on its website.

Viktor Shenderovich complained that the 15-year-old girl’s victory was being used to boost President Vladimir Putin’s ratings and compared the public response to the 1936 victory of a German shot-putter at Hitler’s Berlin Olympics.

The radio station, known for its Kremlin-critical commentary, is owned predominately by Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of the state-owned gas giant Gazprom. The decision by Ekho’s shareholders to revamp the broadcaster’s editorial leadership is just the latest episode of a long-standing Kremlin campaign against the free press in Russia.

Ekho is now feared to be heading down a similar path as TV Dozhd (Rain), a leading opposition channel that has been dumped by all cable and satellite providers, most of them state-owned, over the past few weeks. The boycott of the channel comes in the wake of a controversial January 27 poll about the siege of Leningrad in World War II.

Dozhd’s downfall, now coupled with the reorganization of liberal Ekho Moskvy, leaves even fewer domestic alternatives to the pro-Kremlin media.

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