An investigative report accusing Rospechat, Russia’s federal agency for media development, of allocating state funding to nine media outlets who express an “anti-state” view was conducted and published by pro-government newspaper Izvestia this week. Some of Russia’s best-known independent media outlets, including Ekho Moskvy, Rain TV, RBC and Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK), are among those listed in the document, which claims that a total of over 68 million roubles ($1.29m) was distributed among the media bodies between the years 2010 and 2014.
“It is obvious that financial support goes to the opposition, as all publications that have received money are oppositional ones,” Sergei Markov, political analyst and member of Russia’s Civic Chamber, told Izvestia. “Rospechat actually needs to support regional media, which prints schedules of trains taking people to allotments and documents explaining to people how to calculate pensions and how to register at a doctors’ surgery — media that aren’t obviously biased political projects,” Markov said. Singling out beleaguered independent television station Rain TV, Markov added: “And nowhere is this more evident than with Rain TV — the clearest example of an [organisation with an] utterly anti-Russian agenda acting in the interests of our country’s geopolitical competitors.”
Anatoly Lysenko, general director of Russia’s public broadcaster Public Russian Television told Izvestia that during the Russian government’s years of prosperity, it was common practice to offer financial support to a number of different media bodies. He added: “each organisation presented interesting projects [which encouraged] the council themselves to adopt the decision to support them.”
Journalists and editors from a number of the listed independent media organisations have spoken out against Izvestia’s accusations. Editor-in-chief of MK Pavel Gusev told Novaya Gazeta that Rospechat had never allocated money to them for printing, despite “asking them for money to publish books a number of times”. MK’s financial director Katerina Chereshkina added that the figure stated by Izvestia is “slightly rounded”, and that given that “it is a sum over five years, it is very little money to MK”.
According to Chereshkina, the money given to MK by Rospechat is earmarked for specific social projects and only pays a part of direct costs like staff wages. “So calling it financial support is very difficult — it’s more Rospechat realising social projects,” Chereshkina told Novaya Gazeta.
A recent statement from Rospechat claims the amount written in Izvestia’s documents is “exaggerated twofold”, with head of Rospechat Mikhail Seslavinsky adding that the total amount of state subsidies cited by Izvestia for the years 2010-2014 is only 0.02% of the agency’s budget.
Since the publication of the document on Tuesday, Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched an investigation into government subsidies from Rospechat. According to Izvestia, the police are currently investigating the use of Rospechat’s funds at organisations including Moskovsky Komsomolets, Ekho Moskvy, RBK and Rain TV.