Senior editors at Russia’s leading business newspaper, Vedemosti quit Monday in protest against what they said is censorship under new ownership.
The resignations were a culmination of a months-long dispute between journalists and management.
Vedomosti is one of the last major independent newspapers in Russia, where journalists are increasingly squeezed by curbs on press freedoms and pressure from the Kremlin.
Kremlin critics said the exodus of top editors likely sounded the death knell for Vedomosti in its current incarnation.
“All five deputy editors at Vedomosti are leaving the newspaper in protest over the appointment of Andrei Shmarov as editor-in-chief,” the newspaper said.
Boris Safronov, one of the editors who resigned, said he believed “the old Vedomosti will soon be no more”.
Launched in 1999, Vedomosti was co-founded and co-owned by Dutch entrepreneur Derk Sauer’s Independent Media, the London-based Financial Times and US business daily, The Wall Street Journal.
Like the Financial Times, it is published on salmon-coloured paper.
The paper has changed hands several times since its first print run, as lawmakers introduced legislation limiting foreign ownership of Russian media.
In March, its reporters and editors were shaken by an announcement from then-owner Demyan Kudryavtsev that he planned to sell the newspaper.
Shmarov, 65, was appointed acting editor-in-chief the same month, before the sale was finalised.
The newspaper was eventually sold to the head of a little-known regional news agency called FederalPress, Ivan Yeryomin.
Vedomosti journalists have denounced censorship under Shmarov, saying his appointment was political.
They complain they have been barred from covering negative opinion polls of President Vladimir Putin and that Shmarov interfered in coverage of oil giant Rosneft, which is run by Putin’s top ally Igor Sechin.
In an open letter published by The Bell, an independent Russian-language news site, all five editors said they were leaving after Shmarov was confirmed as editor-in-chief.
“As acting chief editor, he ran the newsroom for almost three months and managed over that period to repeatedly violate editorial norms and guidelines adopted at Vedomosti,” they said.
“We have no other choice but to leave.”
The new owner has said he is certain the newspaper would retain “high professional standards”.
Reported by AFP