Galina Timchenko, chief editor of the Russian news portal Lenta.ru, resigned from office last week. The online publication’s website says she did so following the decision of Aleksandr Mamut, owner of the amalgamated company Afisha Rambler Sup. Timchenko is to be replaced by Aleksei Goreslavsky as chief editor. Before this appointment, he was this company’s deputy general manager for external communications. Still earlier, he edited the online publication Vzgliad.ru.
It has not been explained formally why Galina Timchenko was dismissed. But the most likely pretext was publication of an interview with a Right Sector leader Andrii Tarasenko in Lenta.ru. On Wednesday, March 12, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) censured the editorial board for this material and for a hyperlink to the Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh. It was urged that the hyperlink be deleted because the text “comprises expressions aimed at stirring up interethnic hostility.”
In addition to the news of the dismissal of Timchenko, who has run Lenta.ru since 2004, the publication’s website showed a letter from her colleagues: “To Dear Readers from Dear Editors.” The text says that Timchenko’s departure “is not a customary reshuffle and necessitates some explanations.” “We consider this appointment as direct pressure on Lenta.ru editors. Dismissing an independent chief editors and appointing a person guided, in particular, from Kremlin offices is a violation of the media law which does not allow censorship,” the letter points out. It also says that the space of independent journalism in Russia “has been dramatically shrinking” in the past few years. “Some publications are managed directly by the Kremlin, others by its curators, and still others by editors who are afraid to lose their job. Some media were closed, and others are to be closed in the next few months. The trouble is not that we have no place to work. The trouble is that you seem to have nothing else to read. Naturally, we foresaw that we would also be at the receiving end,” the statement emphasizes. The letter was signed by 81 out of 85 Lenta.ru staff. They are also leaving the editorial board after their ex-chief.
Bloggers, journalists, and political scientists also believe that Timchenko’s dismissal is politically motivated. Lenta.ru founder Anton Nosik noted in an RBK channel commentary: “A professional journalist, a person who has been editing Lenta.ru for 15 years (three months later it will be 15 years since Galia came to Lenta.ru), has been replaced by a spin master. We can see that professional and honest journalists are being replaced by flacks who execute a political commission.”
The Day has phoned Ms. Timchenko for a comment on her dismissal. But she refused to comment not only for us, but also for a number of other publications. “I am far from journalism now and cannot comment either on my dismissal or on the Russian media’s attitude to Ukraine,” she said.