Some hundreds of reporters and producers at NTV, Moscow, have resigned in protest at the takeover of the formerly independent national TV channel, until now perceived as a symbol of Russia’s media independence.

The mass walkout happened on Saturday in the wake of a dawn raid by security guards to break a staff sit-in protesting the channel’s state-backed takeover. A staff spoke said that the protestors now aim to set-up a rival station and by Sunday, using a studio borrowed from TNT, a smaller channel that reaches only half the Russian population, the rebels had transmitted three independent news programmes.

An unlikely white knight in the form of disgraced media and oil tycoon Boris Berezovsky, now operating in exile, is said to be backing the dissidents. Word is that he has offered the rebels’ leader Yevgeni Kiselyov, a job as director of his TV6 channel. According to Kiselyov, he has accepted the post on condition of editorial independence and hopes to be able to offer jobs to dozens of his ex-colleagues.

NTV is now under the state-blessed ownership of Boris Jordan, an American-born financier whose first act was to personally occupy Kiselyov’s office. Jordan had earlier given a public undertaking not to use force to oust those opposed to his hostile takeover on behalf of Russia’s Gazprom energy monopoly.

News source: The Times (London)