Moscow Times chief editor says he's resigning because new Russian owner wants too much control

12:57, 28 october 2015

The Moscow Times, Russia's only remaining English-language newspaper, is poised for big changes, as it converts next month from a daily paper to a weekly publication. One of the changes seems to be greater control by the new owner over the paper's editorial policies, according to the outgoing chief editor.

Earlier this spring, the Finnish media company that owned the newspaper sold it to Demyan Kudryavtsev, a media entrepreneur and a former chief executive of Russian publishing house Kommersant. This marked the end of the publication's foreign ownership.

Just before it goes weekly, The Moscow Times will also lose its current chief editor, Nabi Abdullaev, who's been at the helm for more than a year now. In an interview with Slon today, Abdullaev said one of the main reasons for his departure is that he and Kudryavtsev don't see eye to eye about editorial independence.

Asked if he thought Kudryavtsev was changing The Moscow Times in connection with some larger plot, Abdullaev said he prefers not to indulge "conspiracy theories." 

Update: In comments to Meduza, Abdullaev clarified that The Moscow Times' new owner has never interfered with the paper's content policy and has pledged never to do so in the future. "My contradictions with him [Kudryavtsev]," Abdullaev says, "are about the division of administrative powers over the editorial office, not about the content policies."

“An entirely new newspaper is being created here,” Abdullaev told Slon, “and, as I understand it, the old model [under Finnish ownership] doesn't satisfy Demyan Kudryavtsev. And as chief editor, I'm not prepared to have my authority diminished, and so I decided to leave.”

Slon
In September 2014, Russia adopted a law limiting foreign ownership of mass media outlets to 20 percent, and prohibiting foreigners from being the founders of mass media outlets. The norms laid out in this law will be introduced on January 1, 2016. Media owners will have until February 1, 2017, to comply with the new requirements.
The Moscow Times regularly publishes articles by prominent Russian journalists, and has served as a "training ground" for foreign correspondents, including Ellen Barry, future New York Times Moscow bureau chief and Pulitzer Prize winner.