On June 8, Vitaly Tretyakov, founder of the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG), was removed as its chief editor and general director. A meeting of the paper’s shareholders took place the same day, during which Tat’yana Koshkareva, the former director of information programs at Russian Public Television (ORT), who before 1999 served as NG deputy editor, was selected to replace Tretyakov. Rustam Narzikulov, who up until 1999 headed the paper’s economics section, was named as its general director.
According to Tretyakov, he met in France on June 4 with Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s owner, Boris Berezovsky, who asked him to step down as chief editor and take the job of chairman of the paper’s board. Tretyakov said he turned down the offer because the post of board chairman has no real influence on the paper’s activities. Tretyakov believes that political differences with Berezovsky, who holds an 80-percent stake in the paper, were the real reason for his removal (Russian agencies, June 6-8).
Most Russian media have agreed, viewing Tretyakov’s removal as a political decision that will destroy Nezavisimaya Gazeta in its current form. At the same time, most commentators have not questioned that Berezovsky, as the paper’s majority shareholder, had the right, first, to make such personnel changes and, second, to change the paper’s character and political direction. Literary critic Andrei Nemzer essentially accused Berezovsky of trying to destroy the paper. “Tretyakov was not only the founder and editor of NG, but its soul, brain and image,” Nemzer wrote. “In a ten-year span NG turned into an inimitable publication. What kind [of publication] is a separate question. To destroy it is to deal a blow to the culture…. His resignation means the end of the newspaper” (Vremya Novostei, June 7). Izvestia, meanwhile, predicted major changes in Russia’s “newspaper map.” “Mutual dissatisfaction was building up for a long time. The political lines of the owner and the chief editor diverged: Berezovsky has already been in opposition for a long time, but Tretyakov was more or less loyal to the authorities,” the paper said. “As a result, Berezovsky had given [the paper] practically no money in recent days and was looking for an alternative chief editor” (Izvestia, June 7).
Another of Berezovsky’s newspapers, Kommersant, put forward the “economic version” for Tretyakov’s removal. “The ‘economic reasons’ for the removal put forward by Boris Berezovsky look plausible,” Kommersant wrote. “At least the question of the publication’s financing stands out sharply. During the past few years NG’s employees have been paid chronically late, [and] Boris Berezovsky, responding to appeals to resolve this issue, has consistently urged: ‘Change the paper’s advertising policy'” (Kommersant, June 7). Meanwhile, the Lenta.ru website hinted at that financial malfeasance had occurred on Tretyakov’s watch. Citing an unnamed source “close” to Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s owners, the website claimed that the paper’s management had spent US$1.8 million on its upkeep over the last year, plus funds received from advertisements, subscriptions and retail sales. The sources were quoted as saying that they could not understand why, given such expenditures, staff journalists and other contributors had not received salaries and honoraria (Lenta.ru, June 7).
TRETYAKOV’S TEN YEARS: EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE GAINED AND LOST.