Press release, Kirkenes, Murmansk, Luleå, Oulu, September 29th 2015
On Monday 28th of September, Thomas Nilsen was fired from his position as chief editor of the online news site BarentsObserver by the owners of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the three Northern Norwegian county administrations.
STATEMENT FROM BARENTS PRESS INTERNATIONAL, CONCERNING THE RESTRICTION OF BARENTSOBSERVERS' EDITORIAL FREEDOM
Radio station in Karelia subjected to censorship
The brief (3-4 minutes) “Special Angle” weekly review hosted on the Militseiskaya Volna (Police Wave) radio station in Petrozavodsk by journalist Valery Potashov since July 2010 used to highlight the most significant facts of the past week, commenting on every event that caused broad public repercussions. Now the program is closed.
When the project was just being launched, the station management and Potashov had agreed that there would be no “taboo” topics but the commentaries would be discreet in their style. For several months, the parties had no claims to each other. Yet the latest show was banned from the air – allegedly because it might “undermine the radio station’s reputation”.
What V.Potashov chose for commenting on was by any measure an event of considerable public significance. Actually, Valery was not the first among journalists to pay attention to the fact that Karelia’s head Andrei Nelidov had been away from the workplace during the first decade of January, with no official statements made in that connection by anyone from the governor’s administration. That only made the public still more curious about where the republic’s leader had vanished so mysteriously – and this after President Medvedev’s resolute statement that no New Year holidays would be available to the heads of regions where emergency situations happened to occur. Karelia did go through a few critical situations in early January, with Nelidov’s first deputy stepping in to settle them in the governor’s stead. Where was the governor himself, after all?
That was what V.Potashov intended to clear up in his radio review. He wanted to stress the point that after A.Nelidov disappeared from the public scene, rumours flared up about his being seriously ill. According to unofficial sources, Karelia’s leader was indeed taking a course of medical treatment at one of Moscow’s hospitals.
Since his team did everything to hush up the governor’s absence from work, word went around about Nelidov’s possible reassignment to another place – one of the other points Potashov intended to make in his commentary. Neither the widely known fact of the governor’s hospitalisation nor the rumoured possibility of his early resignation could ever have been expected to sound sensational; yet the topic seemed potentially dangerous to the Militseiskaya Volna management.
Upon learning about the ban on his commentary’s going on the air, Potashov protested that decision as a clear instance of censorship. That made his further cooperation with the radio station problematic.
Glasnost Defense Foundation staff correspondent
In the picture: Valery Potashov