The firing of two veteran reporters from Russia’s Kommersant business daily is “an obvious clampdown on freedom of speech in Russia,” more than 200 employees of the company have said in an online statement.
On Monday, 11 Kommersant journalists said they were resigning from the publication after two of their colleagues were reportedly fired for writing an article about a possible reshuffle among President Vladimir Putin’s close allies. The media scandal spilled light on the tensions between publishers and journalists in Russia’s closely controlled media landscape, which is dominated by pro-Kremlin state outlets.
In the open letter published on Facebook Monday, at least 203 Kommersant employees called the firing of their colleagues, Ivan Safronov and Maxim Ivanov, “an example of direct pressure against journalists.”
Safonov and Ivanov were reportedly dismissed Monday for an article they wrote, published on April 17, that cited unnamed sources in saying that Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, could be replaced by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, in the coming months.
Safronov and Ivanov wrote in separate Facebook posts that they were dismissed for reporting on the Russian senate leader’s rumored resignation by Kommersant’s owner, Kremlin-aligned billionaire Alisher Usmanov.