Businessman Mohammad Zahoor has sold the English-language Kyiv Post newspaper to Odesa-based Syrian businessman Adnan Kivan for “more than $3.5mn”, the Kyiv Post reported on March 22.
The sale immediately raised questions about the paper’s independence as Kivan reportedly has close ties to President Petro Poroshenko and is also said to have ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Whatever the truth of those claims, Kivan has already made it clear there will be editorial changes and that he is keen for the newspaper to “highlight the Syrian problem in Ukraine, which is not very much highlighted,” the Kyiv Post quotes him as saying.
The Kyiv Post, founded in 1995, follows in the tradition of the handful of foreign founded English language press in Eastern Europe with its independent and unbiased reporting mostly produced by a staff of young, talented and fearless reporters. Most of the mainstream press have drawn on this pool of reporters for ready-made seasoned staff that may still be in their 20s, so its alumni are to be found in many major papers.
Offering the unvarnished truth, the Kyiv Post has caused regular embarrassment amongst Ukraine’s political elite, who have been trying to buy the paper for years in an effort to muzzle it. Poroshenko is included, as despite election promises to sell off his assets he has retained them all, including several media assets.
Most of the significant newspapers belong to the oligarchs and around half of Kyiv Post’s readership is local Ukrainians who both value its objectivity and want to practise their English.
The deal was worth “more than $3.5mn,” Zahoor told the Kyiv Post, which is a high valuation. Zahoor bought the Kyiv Post on July 28, 2009, from its founder American Jed Sunden for $1.1mn, but the economy has tanked since then. Zahoor says he has continued to subside the paper and has spent a total of $5mn on it.
Sunden sold to Zahoor on the provision that he would not change the editorial staff. While Zahoor, who made his money in the steel sector, has resisted offers to sell the paper to various political players in Ukraine, he has not got the same promise to maintain editorial integrity from Kivan who said, “he values the Kyiv Post’s journalistic independence, but reserves the right to hire his own team of journalists and other staff,” the Kyiv Post reports.