Russian Radio Station Hopes for Staff Buyout to Escape State’s Clutches

12 February 2002

In what looks like a rerun of the unsuccessful struggle by the (now defunct) Russian TV station TV6 to escape the clutches of state-owned gas corporation OAO Gazprom [WAMN: 22-Jan-02], leading radio news station Echo of Moscow is attempting a staff buyout of Gazprom's controlling stake.

Vowed the station's chief editor, Alexei Venediktov, who leads a journalists’ buyout team: “We will fight for this share”. His remarks followed a meeting with Boris Jordan, director of Gazprom-owned Gazprom-Media.

Alleging that the stake compromises the station’s editorial independence, Venediktov threatened to abandon the station along with its reporters if the team fails to acquire the stake, which he sees as “a hidden nationalization” of Echo. “Naturally, I will not work for such a radio,” he said.

The ultimatum was triggered by Gazprom-Media's attempt to steamroller changes to Echo’s editorial board – itself a response to Venediktov’s decision to allow TV6 journalists to broadcast on Echo after closure of their station.

The Echo situation has heightened international concern about media freedom in Russia – a situation discussed last week by a specially convened group of US and Russian politicians, diplomats and commentators.

Data sourced from: Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff