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Cablegate: Vladivsotok Mayor Acquires Another Newspaper, Blow to Press

DE RUEHVK #0105 2960304
R 230304Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: (U) The editorial staff of Moskovskiy Komsomolets
vo Vladivostoke (MKV), one of the most aggressive independent
newspapers in Primorskiy Kray, has received a note that Moscow
owners of Moskovskiy Komsomolets (MK) have sold the franchise
for publishing the Vladivostok edition to a company affiliated
with Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkaryev. This is the second
large regional paper bought by Pushkaryev this year and a second
serious loss for press freedom in the region.

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Vladivostok Mayor ruins successful independent paper in
Primorskiy Kray
--------------------------------------------- ------------------

2. (SBU) According to MKV staff writer Elena Kochugova, the news
that the MK owners had sold the Vladivostok franchise to Mayor
Pushkaryov was absolutely unexpected. Since its founding in
1997, the MKV franchise belonged to PARI (Primorye Agency of
Advertising and Information), held by a private entrepreneur
Artoush Khatchatryan. The PARI formula of success was quite
unique for the local media environment: Khatchatryan hired a
limited number of the most professional and vitriolic
journalists and paid them very high salaries for extensive
investigative articles on local political scandals, corruption
and crime, living conditions, public health problems etc. Such
local stories were mixed with the articles and entertainment
sections from the Moscow edition, thereby turning MKV into one
of the most successful papers in the region. For twelve years
in a row, PARI has sold 30,000-35,000 copies targeting an
independent-minded middle class. This formula will never work
after the MKV purchase by Mayor Pushkaryev.

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MKV purchase may reveal Pushkaryev's political ambitions
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3. (SBU) MKV is the second independent newspaper Pushkaryev
acquired after he took office in the summer of 2008. "Everybody
wonders why he is doing that. He is either going to become a
local media mogul or has high political ambitions. But he
definitely put himself under a big risk in both cases," declared
Andrey Ostrovskiy, Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta vo
Vladivostoke. Pushkaryev has already ruined Vladivostok, the
only city daily he bought just a year ago. In January 2009,
Pushkaryev fired the daily's chief editor, who dared to publish
a story on Vladivostok's protest against second-hand car import
restrictions, stating that the paper must totally support
Edinaya Rossia (see reftel). In eight months, 90 percent of
staff writers left the Vladivostok Daily, and the paper recently
stopped its retail sales. However this experience has not
discouraged Pushkaryev. "In addition to MKV he tried to buy TNT
Vladivostok, a local TV company, but Primorskiy Governor Sergey
Darkin used his influence to stop the deal," stated Ostrovskiy.
In the past TNT belonged to Vladivostok Mayor Vladimir
Nikolayev and actively supported him during his clash with
Governor Darkin in 2007. Nikolayev eventually lost - he was
imprisoned and then was forced to leave Vladivostok - but Darkin
definitely remembers anti-Governor reports broadcast by TNT and
would not want another Mayor to own the TV company. With the
purchase of MK, Pushkarev also created a number of enemies among
the most vitriolic investigative journalists. PARI published the
last MKV edition on 22 October. In the last edition journalists
announce they are leaving MKV to launch a new weekly
"Tikhookeanskiy Komsomolets" that will undoubtedly be
anti-Puskaryev biased.


4. (U) The MKV purchase is another serious loss for press
freedom in Primorskiy Krai on account of Vladivostok Mayor Igor
Pushkaryev. Aleksey Rasputnyy, a former MKV editor, considering
such deals to be the trend, commented that "in the 1990s, local
politicians fought media in courts; now they are just buying
them." Pushkaryev's media activity reveals his high political
ambitions but may also put both his investments and status at


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