Newspapers comment on reports that Novaya Gazeta well-known for its independent view of the country’s political life has been indefinitely stripped of its main source of funding. Following unplanned checks at the National Reserve Bank, owned by shareholder and publisher of Novaya Gazeta Alexander Lebedev, his personal accounts that the millionaire used to finance numerous charity projects and the Novaya Gazeta with, were frozen. “Things they are doing against our edition can be called a crime against people fighting corruption,” Novye Izvestia quotes its editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov as saying. “It is a tradition here – as soon as a person begins fighting against corruption, he or she is immediately dubbed as an enemy of the state. As a result an army of inspectors, over 130 people, came to Lebedev. There were no such checks earlier, Central Bank and economic security department’s representatives arrived unexpectedly, although there had been checks half-a-year before, which showed that the bank was in ideal condition,” he wrote.
The staffers reacted to financial difficulties promptly and unambiguously, the newspaper stressed. “It has already been decided that although it is not yet clear where the staffers will get their salaries from, we will do everything possible on our part not to interrupt the production cycle,” newspaper’s spokeswoman Nadezhda Prusenkova said. “If necessary, newspaper staffers are ready to work for free as long as it will be possible,” she stressed.
They don’t want to sit idly waiting for the problem to be settled favorably all by itself. Reporters are ready to use the main weapon of the press – sending requests to all competent agencies, demanding to answer as to whether that large-scale audit of the bank was legal and justified. Newspaper shares may be put up for sale to solve financial problems, Vedomosti business daily writes referring to Dmitry Muratov. He specified that this possibility is already being looked into and the decision will be made by the shareholders and reporters. “The newspaper can exist indefinitely long without the payment of salaries,” Muratov said adding that the reporters are not going to ditch their shareholder.
Novaya Gazeta, an autonomous non-commercial organization, was registered in Moscow in 2003, and a closed joint-stock company is its shareholder. The controlling interest in it belongs to the journalists. In 2006, Lebedev bought a 39-percent stake and a ten-percent stake went to the former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.
In his interview with Dozhd TV channel, Alexander Lebedev said that in connection with financial difficulties, his British newspapers also face trouble. “They will have to tighten their belts together with the Russians,” he said. “Our three newspapers – the Independent (daily circulation of 180,000), Nezavisimaya Gazeta (220,000) and the Evening Standard (800,000) will possibly have to make cuts that should have been made long ago,” he said. He also may slash the staff of the National Reserve Bank by half.