In the situation developed around the Gorodkiye Vesti newspaper in Volgograd, we, Board members of the MediaUnion, a nation-wide public organization of mass media workers, believe it necessary to come out with the following open letter.
Certainly, the publication of a cartoon featuring the founders of world religions in Gorodskiye Vesti in the present situation was a thoughtless and dangerous step. However, we find even more unacceptable the dissemination of the scandalous Danish cartoons by other Russian newspapers. We are also absolutely convinced that publications insulting people’s religious or national feelings are inadmissible under any circumstances.
However, we believe that the situation with Gorodskiye Vesti should be considered purely in the context of journalistic ethics. The article in the Volgograd newspaper, since it has a humane message, should by no means result in the closure of the newspaper or reprisals against its staff. The Volgograd city administration, just as that in Vologda, tried to become ‘more Catholic then the Pope of Rome’ in aggravating the tension where religious organizations did not find any serious reasons for indignation.
The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Law on the Mass Media and the Constitution of the Russian Federation is a basic value for us. Such measure as closure of a newspaper should be taken only in legal form and should by no means result from a campaign fuss or administrative pressure.
We call upon our fellow journalists, the governmental bodies, parties and public organizations to show restraint and responsibility and not to make a conflict where there is no reason for it.
Alexander LYUBIMOV, MediaUnion President
Yelena ZELINSKAYA, MediaUnion Vice President and member of the Public Chamber
Valery FADEYEV, Expert magazine Editor-in-Chief and member of the Public Chamber
Vladimir DMITRIYEV, Editor-in-Chief of Novgorodskiye vedomosti
Mikhail KOMISSAR, Interfax Group CEO and Board Chairman
Alexander GURNOV, Russia Today TV channel program director
Alexander POLESITSKY, EuropePlus radio-holding general director
Nikolai SVANIDZE, Rossia TV channel political analyst and member of the Public Chamber
Vladimir MAMONTOV, Izvestia Editor-in-Chief
Vladimir SUNGORKIN, Komsomolskaya Pravda Editor-in-Chief
Oleg KUZIN, Tribuna Editor-in-Chief
Vladimir GUREVICH, Vryemya novostey Editor-in-Chief
Kirill DYBSKY, Itogi Editor-in-Chief
Oleg TRATYAKOV, Delovoy Peterburg Editor-in-Chief, president of St. Petersburg Journalists League and member of the Public Chamber member
February 26, 2006