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‘Vedomosti’ journalists are now forbidden from publishing independent polling and criticizing Putin's ‘zeroed-out’ presidential term clock
The controversial new acting editor-in-chief of Vedomosti, Andrey Shmarov, has reportedly prohibited staff from publishing public polling results from the “Levada Center” or even mentioning the independent research institute in any content, two sources at the newspaper told Meduza. Shmarov issued the instructions to the newsroom on April 22.
The Levada Center is one of the largest, best-respected non-governmental research organizations in Russia. In 2016, federal officials forced the center to register with the Justice Ministry as a “foreign agent.” Vedomosti is one of the Levada Center’s oldest partners and the newspaper often receives first access to the organization’s embargoed sociological studies.
One source told Meduza that Shmarov has also banned Vedomosti journalists from writing critical stories about constitutional reforms that “zero out” Vladimir Putin’s presidential term clock, which will allow him to remain in office until 2036. Meduza’s source says Shmarov is acting on instructions from the Kremlin.
Asked to comment on the allegations, Shmarov told Meduza: “What do you care about our newspaper? Meduza isn’t one of the publications I’m ready to cooperate with. You can understand me any way you like. I don’t care how you understand me.”
Alexey Levinson, the director of the Levada Center’s socio-cultural research department, declined to comment.
In late March 2020, after the owners of the newspaper Vedomosti confirmed that they'd reached a preliminary agreement to sell off the publication, deputy editors appealed to the paper’s new owners in a letter where they warned that the newsroom is in chaos, advertisers are in shock, and subscribers are demanding refunds for paid subscriptions. The letter’s authors argue that the only remedy is to appoint a new chief editor from among the newsroom’s own ranks. The appeal to Vedomosti’s new owners followed Shmarov’s interference in a published report where he secretly changed the headline for a story about Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft.
In mid-April, Shmarov intervened in the newspaper’s reporting about the company Rosneft again, this time completely removing an op-ed by columnist Konstantin Sonin titled, “A Hard Time of Responsibility.” Meduza later republished this text and translated it into English.
The crisis follows the decision by Vedomosti's new owners to install a new editor-in-chief named Andrey Shmarov, who promptly alienated the staff in a bawdy introduction where he touted his ignorance about Vedomosti's own code of ethics, professed not to read the newspaper itself, and then defended Harvey Weinstein and expressed skepticism about the very concept of sexual harassment.
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