On Friday, May 13, the news company RBC fired its three top chief editors, Elizaveta Osetinskaya, Roman Badanin, and Maxim Soluys.
Over the past two years, Osetinskaya, Badanin, and Soluys, along with dozens of other editors and journalists at RBC, have achieved a true miracle. They've done the impossible, creating something that simply doesn't exist. In the past two years, independent journalism in Russia has died. But it was in these two years that RBC became the country's main independent publication, producing first-rate investigative reports, and gaining an impeccable reputation with millions of readers. And RBC did it uncompromisingly and without reservation in hard times.
Friday, May 13, was a wretched day for all of us—for journalists and readers alike. This was a day when a miracle was destroyed before our very eyes. Just as the Kremlin insists there's no “state interest” in what happened at RBC, there's no conceivable justification for something like this, and neither is it the result of careful deliberations by the news company's owner. Instead we're faced with what amounts to pure resentfulness and vindictiveness. RBC, you looked where you shouldn't have. You behaved like you shouldn't have. You wrote what you shouldn't have. You were told not to stick your nose into that, and it's exactly where you stuck your nose. What happened with RBC wasn't a fight against an ideological opponent; it was more like getting jumped in an alley. Except it's not just RBC that was jumped, but all of Russian journalism.
And was the whole RBC experiment worth it? Of course it was. But the people who destroyed the news company last Friday never really understood why it existed in the first place. They simply couldn't fathom the logic of these strange reporters who went around just asking for trouble. But the logic was never all that complicated: these people were professionals who loved their work and were damned good at it.
There will always be those who say once again that the dismantling of RBC wasn't the work of the country's leadership—that it was society itself calling for censorship and rejecting these journalists. But if that were the case, how do you explain RBC's millions of readers? And there will always be those who say journalists need to come to terms with the men in uniform, in order to protect their jobs and their newsrooms. But do you really think the staff at RBC would have agreed to an arrangement like that?
Thank you, Liza, Roman, Maxim, and everyone else at RBC. Thank you for being professionals, for giving us confidence that we are doing the right thing, and for refusing to compromise on your conscience. Better times will never come, but we'll never change. All we can do is carry on.
This text was translated from Russian by Kevin Rothrock.