Russian news agencies reported on March 5 that the Chechen chapter of the Russian Union of Journalists had conferred membership on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for services rendered to Chechen journalism. However, on March 6, following protests from several leading journalists, the union’s leadership in Moscow announced that Kadyrov’s membership had been rescinded.
According to Newsru.com, Chechnya’s minister for ethnic policy, information and press, Shamsail Saraliev, gave Kadyrov his Russian Union of Journalists membership card during a meeting Kadyrov had with members of the republic’s media in Grozny’s Press House on March 5. Saraliev said that Kadyrov had been accepted into the Russian Union of Journalists for “huge services in the cause of the formation of Chechen journalism [and] a free press [and] the creation of ideal circumstances for the work of local media.” Kavkazky Uzel on March 6 quoted Saraliev as saying during the meeting: “Ramzan Kadyrov, while he was still working in the [Chechen] government [as prime minister], constantly paid attention to creating good circumstances for the work of journalists, protected their right to cover events taking place in the republic objectively, and therefore deserves such recognition from the journalistic community.”
Kadyrov, for his part, promised that everything possible would be done in Chechnya so that “journalists can without any hesitation, not fearing for their lives, speak the truth and write about what is really happening.” At the same time, Kadyrov signed a decree conferring the honorary title “Distinguished Journalist of the Chechen Republic” on Grozny Mayor Muslim Khuchiev. In conferring the award, Kadyrov said Khuchiev’s contributions to the development of the local media have been “extraordinarily great.” Khuchiev is a graduate of Moscow State University’s journalism faculty who previously worked as the Chechen president’s press secretary.
According to Newsru.com, a large group of local Chechen journalists also received awards, with several receiving the title “Distinguished Journalist of the Chechen Republic.” Two journalists received keys to apartments in Grozny, while Kadyrov gave several veterans of Chechen journalism—including a journalist who started his career as a Chechen newspaperman in 1954—Volga automobiles and cash awards.
As Newsru.com noted, this was just the latest in a series of awards and titles that have been conferred on Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2006, when Kadyrov was still Chechnya’s prime minister, he was made an honorary academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Chechen Republic. Earlier, Kadyrov was made an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, after which then Chechen President Alu Alkhanov conferred the title “Distinguished Builder of the Chechen Republic” on him. In December 2004, President Vladimir Putin presented Kadyrov with the “Hero of the Russian Federation” award for courage and heroism “shown in the discharge of duties.” In June 2005, Ramzan Kadyrov received Chechnya’s highest award, the Order of Akhmad Kadyrov, for “support of legality, law and order and public security in the Chechen Republic.” Kadyrov also earned a doctorate after defending his dissertation on the “Optimal Management of Contractual Relationships in the Construction Industry.”
Reacting to the news that Ramzan Kadyrov had been made a member of the Russian Union of Journalists, Aleksandr Minkin, the well-known Moskovsky Komsomolets columnist, announced that he was quitting the union in protest. “If Ramzan Kadyrov is in the Union of Journalists, then I’m not,” Minkin told Ekho Moskvy radio. “I consider it unacceptable that a person like Ramzan Kadyrov, given what we know about him and his actions, is in the Russian Union of Journalists. I hope that I am not alone in quitting the union. I even think that I am not the first. Maybe someone else found out about it earlier and immediately quit the union.” Minkin said he was planning to write the union demanding Kadyrov’s ouster and said he could rejoin it if Kadyrov is “thrown out or not finally accepted” as a member.
Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, said in a statement: “I will not remain a member of the Russian Union of Journalists for one second if it is confirmed that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has become a member of the Russian Union of Journalists. I will not comment on my position. I am simply categorically not prepared to be found in the same union as cannibals.” Muratov said he understood that the decision to make Kadyrov a member of the Russian Union of Journalists was taken by the union’s chapter in Chechnya and was interested to see what the parent organization would have to say about it.
Gazeta.ru quoted Russian Union of Journalists General Secretary Igor Yakovenko as saying: “Personally, I am not acquainted with the professional activities of the journalist Kadyrov, I am not familiar with a single one of his articles and do not know what can confirm his professional status. Some journalists might find it unpleasant to find out that Kadyrov is in the union with them. But if it becomes easier for even one Chechen journalist to work, then I will put up with it. Such are the times. Stalin was the best friend of all athletes.”
APN Severo-Zapad quoted Dmitry Polyagin, head of the Sverdlovsk chapter of the Russian Union of Journalists, as saying: “It is necessary to annul the Russian Union of Journalists membership card given to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov; otherwise, the very idea of the [Russian Union of Journalists] will be discredited. Only professional journalists or so-called freelancers regularly working for media can be members of the union. Kadyrov, of course, belongs to neither the first nor the second category. I can understand that the Chechen journalists are grateful to Kadyrov for certain preferences, but a journalistic certification should not be a means of payment for those preferences.”
On March 6, Igor Yakovenko, the Russian Union of Journalists’ general secretary, announced that it had rescinded to the decision taken by its chapter in Chechnya to confer membership on Ramzan Kadyrov. “Two hours ago the secretariat of the Russian Union of Journalists rescinded the Union of Journalists of the Chechen Republic’s decision as contradicting the charter of the Russian Union of Journalists,” RIA Novosti quoted Yakovenko as saying. “In this case it was simply a mistaken decision that was rescinded. Given that Ramzan Kadyrov is not a professional journalist, no one could accept him into the Russian Union of Journalists.”
The chairman of the Russian Union of Journalists, Vsevolod Bogdanov, said he understood the desire of journalists in Chechnya to make Kadyrov a member of the union, adding that they did it “out of a desire to cooperate with the authorities,” Integrum.ru reported. “All the more so given that Kadyrov is trying to do a lot for the Union of Journalists and the media. No one here is impugning the honor and dignity of Kadyrov, who is a Hero of Russia. It’s simply that the Union of Journalists is more for professionals.”
Lema Gudaev, who heads the information-analytical department of the Chechen Republic’s president and government, told Ekho Moskvy Radio on March 6 that the Chechen chapter of the Russian Union of Journalists had picked the wrong way to express gratitude to Ramzan Kadyrov “for everything he has done in terms of supporting the republican press.” Even though “any journalist could give a number of concrete positive examples” of the Chechen leader’s contributions, the Chechen journalists picked a form that contradicts the Russian Union of Journalists charter, Gudaev said.
During the meeting in which Ramzan Kadyro was erroneously made a member of the Russian Union of Journalists, he announced that March 5 will from now on be celebrated in Chechnya as “Mass Media Workers Day.”