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A Conversation with Meduza: Challenges and Opportunities for the Independent Media Competing with State-Sponsored Fake News
May 12, 2017 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
On May 12th, please join us for “A Conversation with Meduza: Challenges and Opportunities for the Independent Media Competing with State-Sponsored Fake News” featuring Galina Timchenko, Ivan Kolpakov, and Anna Veduta – the editorial team of Meduza, one of the world’s largest independent Russian-language media outlets, headquartered in Riga, Latvia.
Not long before the annexation of Crimea, Alexander Mamut, the owner of Lenta.ru, the most popular Russian news website at the time, fired its editor-in-chief Galina Timchenko. She was replaced with Alexey Goreslavsky, who had previously edited the pro-Kremlin website Vzglyad and later was a high-level official at the Interfax news agency. The reason given for Timchenko’s dismissal was an official warning from Russian state censors, issued because one of the website’s stories (an interview with a Ukrainian nationalist leader) contained a hyperlink to materials deemed extremist. More than 80 editors and reporters of Lenta.ru – nearly the entire newsroom – quit in protest, publishing an open letter calling Timchenko’s outster “an act of censorship” and a violation of Russia’s media laws. Timchenko and most of the staff who resigned with her went on to found a new online newspaper, Meduza. Timchenko told Forbes that the decision to base Meduza in Latvia and register it outside of .ru domain zone was made since “right now, establishing an independent Russian language publishing house in Latvia is possible, while in Russia it is not.”
The Q&A session with the audience, moderated by the Eliot Borenstein, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies and Collegiate Professor, and Sergey Sanovich, Ph.D. Candidate in Politics at New York University, will feature topics including:
- freedom of the press in Russia,
- economic viability of an independent press,
- technical and content innovations to sustain quality press and reach wider audience, including very young and “conservative”,
- competition between free press and private and state-sponsored fake-news,
- journalistic standards and training in the era of social media.
Galina Timchenko is the CEO of Meduza. From 1997 to 1999, she worked as an editor at the Kommersant newspaper. In 1999 she moved to the newly created online edition Lenta.ru, rising from monitoring officer to chief editor. In 2004, she assumed the position of editor-in-chief. In 2010, Harvard University conducted a study of the Russian blogosphere, and recognized Lenta.ru as the most widely quoted news source among the Russian-language blogs. On March 12, 2014 the owner, Alexander Mamut, fired Galina Timchenko. The employees of Lenta.ru issued a statement that the purpose of the move was to install a new editor-in-chief controlled directly by the Kremlin and turn the website into a propaganda tool. In October 2014, Timchenko, together with several former journalists of Lenta.ru, launched a new media based in Riga, called Meduza.
Ivan Kolpakov is an editor-in-chief at Meduza.io, a Russian media outlet based in Riga, Latvia. He started working as a journalist in 2001 in Perm (an industrial city in the center of Russia) where he contributed to local political and business newspapers. In 2010 he launched his own project, Salt, a political and satirical magazine, also based in Perm. It closed down less than two years later because of problems with investors and officials. In 2012, Ivan moved to Moscow and became the head of investigative reporting department at Lenta.ru, at that time Russia’s most popular online publication. He left Lenta.ru with the rest of the team following the firing of its editor-in-chief Galina Timchenko. Together with Timchenko he founded Meduza, which has been called Russia’s free press in exile. The project was an instant success. In the eyes of many Russian readers Meduza has become one of the most popular and reliable media outlets available in Russian.
Anna Veduta is the editor of Meduza in English and Global Outreach Director of Meduza.io. Prior to Meduza, Anna served as Press Secretary to the leading Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, including during his campaign for Mayor of Moscow in 2013, when he leveraged social media channels to break the official media blockade and finished just shy of the second ballot. Anna holds degrees in political science and international relations from Moscow State University and Columbia University School of International Public Affairs.