RBC Daily Forces Journalist Out For Political Writing

RBC Daily has forced Anastasia Samotorova to resign.

“Now I just want to rest. I’m not finding the fighter’s qualities within myself to go toward a conflict, and I can’t work under such conditions.” Such were the words of Anastasia Samotorova, a journalist commenting on her dismissal from the RBC (RosBusinessConsulting) Daily newspaper. She wrote a notice of resignation of her own hand, although the editorial management was responsible for pushing her out.

“The pressure comes not from the bureaucracy, but from the editorial leadership,” Samotorova noted. “The bureaucrats shut themselves off from the press as expected. But editorial offices are increasing their self-censorship.”

According to the journalist, the paper worked out a special list of “heightened demands” for her. Her department head, Yekaterina Vykhukholeva, told Samotorova, “either you write a notice of resignation of your own free will, of we’ll make conditions unbearable for you.”

“This was especially hurtful, since we’re friends, and we worked together in the past at Profil,” Samotorova said.

Samotorova believes that she was forced out for an article she wrote titled “From the buffet to the toilet,” which was published on November 28th. The piece discusses how the government is becoming more and more closed for the press, and noted a new directive which prohibits civil servants from speaking to the mass-media. The article’s title came from a comment given to Samotorova: “The press has the right to come to the Press Office, and from the buffet to the toilet. What more is needed?”

The reporter had originally even received an award for the article. But shortly thereafter, the head editor came up to her, and “jokingly” said: “Our shareholders want to fire you for this article.” In the coming weeks, Samotorova started to receive impossible assignments. On her way to the airport, for instance, she was told to immediately get commentary from several ministers on the nomination of Dmitri Medvedev as a presidential candidate.

On December 11th, while she was in the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk, she was asked to obtain commentary from Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. The assignment came at 1 AM local time, and although Samotorova complained that the premier was asleep, she was told that if the piece wasn’t written, she would be dismissed. The journalist managed to take commentary in the morning, but her editors told her that she didn’t complete the assignment in time, and that she could consider it ruined.

Meanwhile, the editorial leadership is refuting Samotorova’s version of events. Her supervisor, Yekaterina Vykhukholeva, told Sobkor®ru: “Anastasia was given no ultimatums. She wasn’t even encouraged to retire. The article, which Anastasia alludes to, was recognized as the best for some time past, and it’s still up on our website. The conflict between the editorial office and journalist is of an occupational nature, and has no political underpinnings. She was simply reminded of the necessity of giving commentary to the information set forth in the articles, which is a required condition of a labor contract. Some of her remarks needed to be sent back for re-working. The owners don’t have any relation to this conflict. We’re not friends, yes, we worked together for a long time. In my opinion, Nastya deliberately went for an exacerbation of the conflict and didn’t send in her article by the deadline. Why I don’t know. We have a good job, and decent wages.”

Anastasia Samotorova was a participant at opposition demonstrations known as Dissenters’ Marches.

Pressure on journalists in Russia has increased sharply in recent years. The same day as Samotorova resigned, another critical journalist, Natalya Morar, was expelled from the country. The independent “Noviy Peterburg” newspaper has also been completely shut down by authorities. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, more than 40 journalists and noted activists have been barred from entering Russia since 2000.