Russian investigative paper Novaya Gazeta set to shutter print edition

By bne IntelliNews March 13, 2015

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Novaya Gazeta, Russia's best known and most highly regarded investigative newspaper,  may end its print issue this summer or even close down entirely, the newspaper's editor said according to local reports.

"It is perfectly possible that after celebrating Victory Day in May with a special edition we will stop our print edition," editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov told television station Dozhd, the Moscow Times reported on March 12. He did not comment on what would happen to the online edition.

Muratov said that the paper could not compete with the state-backed rivals. Ironically the Moscow Times ran its longest story ever on exactly this topic the same week, making the point that while the Kremlin didn’t practice Soviet-era style censorship, its adroit use of threats and commercial support was crushing the spirit of independent journalism that sprang up during perestroika.

The campaigning title reports constantly on corruption and abuse of office in the government and several of its journalists have lost their lives. The most famous was the assassination in October 7, 2006 of high profile reporter Anna Politkovskaya,  who wrote regularly on corruption in the North Caucasus and was best known for her opposition to the second Chechen war.

Anastasia Baburova, a freelance journalist for Novaya Gazeta and a member of political opposition group Autonomous Action, was shot and killed  outside a Moscow court together with journalist and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov on 19 January, 2009. The pair were leaving a press conference about Markelov's last minute appeal against the early release of Yuri Budanov, a former Russian military officer convicted of the kidnapping and aggravated murder of a young Chechen woman.

The Kremlin has no love of the paper that is partly owned by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and businessman and publisher of the Evening Standard in London Alexander Lebedev – both of whom have been openly critical of the Kremlin.

The paper's problems come in the context of a wider crackdown on independent print press, with a new foreign media law that goes into effect next year and limits the foreign ownership of print titles to 20%.

The paper that will be most noticeably affected is the widely respected (and widely read) Vedomosti daily that is jointly owned by the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Independent Media, a locally based company that publishes the English language Moscow Times as well as a wide variety of glossy magazines.

That said, US-based CNN is due to receive its licence to broadcast in Russia "within days or weeks", according to the channel, after it withdrew from the Russian market at the end of last year because of the new foreign media law.

"The [CNN's] application for a universal license is being processed," Roskomnadzor media watchdog chief Alexander Zharov said, news agency RIA Novosti reported. "I think it's a question of days or weeks."

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