Echo of Moscow host fired by shareholder Gazprom-Media, allegedly for a tweet

by Ashley Nguyen
Oct 30, 2018 in Media Sustainability

After seeing a spike in traffic on IJNet’s Russian site about how tweets can get you fired, we wondered aloud about why. Our Russian editor pointed us to this news story, which appeared in the Daily Beast last Friday.

Alexander Plyushchev, a popular and respected host at the independent radio station Echo of Moscow, was fired:

What for? Officially for an “insensitive” tweet by Plyushchev earlier this week about the accidental death of the elder son of Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff. Plyushchev later apologized and deleted the tweet. But Echo editor in chief  Alexei Venediktov sees the incident as a pivotal incident in the “long-term war” the Kremlin has fought against the radio station, he told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview.

Plyushchev wasn’t fired by Venediktov, his editor-in-chief, but rather by Gazprom-Media, Echo’s main shareholder. (Gazprom, a gas company, was privatized into a joint stock company in 1998, but today 50 percent of its shares are still owned by the Russian government.)

As an independent news media outlet in Russia, Echo is often targeted by those who do not approve of the way it covers news. So much so that its editor has had several death threats made against him.

Plyushchev’s firing is also another signal that Echo might not be around for much longer as the Kremlin continues to crackdown on non-state media.

Despite the hostility toward Echo, it is still a beloved ration station in Russia. The Daily Beast likened it to NPR for Americans or BBC for Britons:

To the millions of Russians who listen to Echo both on the radio and online, the idea of life without Echo is unthinkable. Muscovites call their favorite station “Ukho Moskvy” (Ear of Moscow) and see it as an institution, a compass for society. Echo has documented all the crises of the post-Perestroika era, wars, conflicts, scandals, and protests. “In all our worst crises, politicians have always supported us, since they knew that once every door was closed to them, if they were blackmailed or discredited, Echo would always give them a chance to speak out, as our policy is not to participate in any media or political wars,” radio host Olga Bychkova told The Daily Beast on Friday.

Regardless of Echo's fate, news in Russia will soon become less varied as a law signed by President Vladimir Putin goes into effect. The law requires "Russian media with foreign owners to reduce non-Russian ownership to 20 percent by the end of 2016."

Because of the law, the Atlantic reported CNN will no longer broadcast in Russia. The Moscow bureau, which reports on Russian affairs for CNN to broadcast abroad, will remain open.

Via the Daily Beast and the Atlantic

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Vladimir Varfolomeev.

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