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The new balance of forces established in the Ekho Moskvy board of directors

March 30, 2012, 12:13 UTC+3
Gazprom Media representatives have the majority of posts in the board of directors
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MOSCOW, March 30 (Itar-Tass) — On Thursday, the shareholders of the Ekho Moskvy closed joint stock company elected a new board of directors of this popular liberal radio station, which is known for its criticism of the authorities. Gazprom Media representatives have the majority of posts in the board of directors. The shareholders did not raise the question of any changes in the charter, under which the Ekho Moskvy chief editor can be elected or dismissed only by the radio station staff.

According to the current agreements since 2001 Gazprom Media (owns 66% of stock of Ekho Moskvy) had four representatives in the board of directors, the Kommersant recalled. The holding ceded two seats to independent directors, and three members of the board of directors represent the staff of the radio station (34%). However, in the middle of February in the very heat of the presidential campaign upcoming extraordinary reshuffles in the board of directors initiated by Gazprom Media were announced. The balance in the board of directors was offered to change so that the holding will be represented by five directors, and the Ekho Moskvy staff – two directors. Meanwhile, both sides agreed to give one seat each to independent directors.

On Thursday, this scheme was approved at a meeting of shareholders that resulted in Ekho Moskvy chief editor Alexei Venediktov and his first deputy Vladimir Varfolomeyev leaving the board of directors. Now the radio station will be represented in the board of directors by a lawyer Alexander Berezin and Ekho Moskvy Director General Yuri Fedutinov. Meanwhile, the former independent directors, namely Yevgeny Yasin (the chief scientific fellow of the Higher School of Economics) and Alexander Makovsky (the first deputy chairman of the board of the Research Centre of Private Law) left the board of directors.

Now Gazprom Media will be represented by five out of nine directors in the board of directors that will make it possible to dismiss the chief editor of the radio station in some situation. The controlling shareholder cannot appoint a new chief editor. The Ekho Moskvy charter envisaged the procedure of elections of the chief editor of the radio station. Only 75% of shareholders can change the charter.

Meanwhile, chairman of the board of directors Nikolai Senkevich said earlier that Alexei Venediktov’s dismissal is not on the agenda. Venediktov confirmed this himself. “They confirmed to me once again that I work and any changes in the editorial policy are made only by the chief editor,” he told the Kommersant daily on Thursday. Meanwhile, Venediktov stated again about the political underpinning of the replacement of the board of directors. He recalled about the public criticism on the Ekho Moskvy radio station by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in January 2012.

He takes the fact that no representatives of the radio station staff were elected in the board of directors as the attempt of political pressure, Vladimir Varfolomeyev told the Novye Izvestia. “Probably the state-run gas major Gazprom was instructed by the authorities to discipline the radio station. By the way, I hope that this will not happen, and there are some legal grounds for my hope and belief,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The editorial policy of the radio station is regulated by the charter of the Ekho Moskvy closed joint stock company and the charter of the Ekho Moskvy editor’s office that holds the chief editor determines its editorial policy, Varfolomeyev said.

“Since the changes did not affect the chief editor, there are some reasons to believe that neither members of the board of directors nor its chairman will interfere in the creative process and instruct journalists what they should write,” he said.

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