Russia’s well-regarded Ekho Moskvy radio station, which has long attempted to maintain political independence despite the increasingly hypoxic climate for dissenting media and pressure from shareholders (the station is owned by Gazprom-Media), has today, facing an acute crisis since last month when the station received a warning from Roskomnadzor (the Russian media regulator) and an intervention by their owners, published a new code of conduct for their journalists.
The code includes a number of specific regulations regarding social media use, which comes after Yevgeny Plyushchev, an Ekho journalist, posted a tweet that appeared to mock the death of the son of a Kremling official. The journalist was also, and perhaps more disturbingly, accused by Roskomnadzor of “extremism” for hosting a radio discussion on the battle for Donetsk Airport with Sergei Loyko of the Los Angeles Times, TV Rain’s Timur Olevsky and Sofiko Shevardnadze, another Ekho journalist.
After negotiations with Mikhail Lesin, then chairman of the board of Gazprom-Media, the station’s editor-in-chief, Aleksey Venediktov, announced that Ekho was safe, but that Plyushchev would no longer appear on air, and that a new code of conduct would be drawn up.
The new document appears to verify fears that the station has compromised too far in order to maintain its survival.
Most worrisome of all the requirements in the new code of conduct is point 5, which appears to render any sort of investigation into personal corruption or hypocrisy out of bounds.
Draft Amendments to the Code of the Ekho Moskvy Radio Station.
This document, and the provisions of the Moscow Journalists’ Charter, apply to the Internet, including social media.
1. The editorial staff welcome the participation of employees in social media.
2. The journalist understands that their statements on the Internet, including social media, may be interpreted as the opinion of the editors.
3. The journalist does not conceal their place of work.
4. The journalist keeps in mind the expedience of apologising for incorrect reports or offensive remarks.
5. The journalist refrains from public editorial criticism of politicians, colleagues, shareholders or guests of the editors; this does not apply to criticism of their public positions.
6. The editorial staff welcomes subscription to speakers.
7. The journalist understands that retweets, likes, reposts etc. can be taken as opinion or the position of the editors.
8. The journalist bears in mind the security of their accounts on the Internet, including social media, and takes all possible measures against hacking, and makes public statements when their account is hacked or a false account appears under their name.
9. The journalist refrains from agitation or political activism that benefits any political party or politician during an election campaign.
10. The journalist remembers that pointing out their location, or the whereabouts of their colleagues may expose them or their colleagues to danger.
11. For conflict resolution, a Commission of 3 people is created. The Commission is made up of: a chairman (selected by the editor-in-chief, not from editorial employees), the deputy chief editor (selected from, and by the directors), and a journalist (selected by an assembly of journalists). The Commission investigates appeals from editorial employees or shareholders’ representatives and makes proposals for resolving conflicts to the editor-in-chief. The Commission will work for 1 year.