How the boss of Echo Moscow radio continues to inform the Russians

How the boss of Echo Moscow radio continues to inform the Russians

Proud of his “professional mission”, Alexei Venediktov clings. He will not desert. In Moscow, the emblematic editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy (“Echo Moscow”), the radio station renowned for its free tone but banned since the start of the Kremlin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, according to official understatement, manages to keep its editorial line: “to inform and, for that, to speak to everyone. We journalists must continue our explanatory work and do it in Russia itself, whatever the difficulties”, confides to “Echos” Alexei Venediktov, seated at a restaurant in the center of Moscow, as usual hair in shambles and strong words .

Formerly, the dean of Russian journalists received in his offices Ekho Moskvy with a swirling atmosphere. “The radio was shattered like a mirror. But there are pieces left. I continue on Youtube, ”he says. The audience rose from 3.5 million listeners to 780,000. Many journalists have gone abroad, continuing at a distance and on a voluntary basis.

“Foreign agent”

In Moscow, far from the 120 radio journalists, a dozen resistance fighters, aged on average 25, take turns for a few hours a week. “I can’t pay them regularly. But my ethical line has not changed. I invite all opinions to be expressed. Some accept. Many refuse. But they are welcome,” insists Alexei Venediktov. The main constraint being the fact that the journalist, who loudly opposes the military offensive, has been classified as a “foreign agent”, a very negative concept in the consciousness of Russians.

“I have become an enemy of the people. It’s done not only to punish me but also to cut me off from my contacts, make my daily life heavier and therefore prevent me from working, ”explains Alexei Venediktov. In all his public communications, he must specify “foreign agent”. And it must justify the slightest expense. “I am rigorous, I declare the slightest cup of coffee. This meal with you, for example, I cannot accept that you offer it to me. I am obliged to declare the amount and with whom it was, ”he quips.

“I am not an opposition journalist”

Above all, this isolated him from his sources of information, in Moscow and in the regions. “In my phone, there are many numbers of ministers, governors, deputies. At least half no longer take my calls…”, he regrets.

Alexei Venediktov has received threats. “Our profession in Russia, to you and to me, has become dangerous. I’m under organ observation. I can be imprisoned for using the word ‘war’,” he warns. On the door of his apartment, a pig’s head has been drawn. On social networks, we warn him: “you’re screwed”, “we’ll take it out on you, your son, your wife”.

Like other journalists, Alexei Venediktov could have fled and worked from abroad. “Russia is my country. Why leave it on a diet ? “, he launches. “When I talk about ‘war’ here in Moscow, it carries more weight than if I talk about it from Riga or Warsaw. People wouldn’t believe me because I would be safe while my listeners in Russia would be insecure. I must be with them. His only red line: if he receives a physical threat.

Alexei Venediktov uses the word “war” and gives military information. But, unlike other rebels, he was never prosecuted for “fake” or discrediting the army, offenses punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. In part of the opposition, some accuse him of being “a showcase”, protected at the top to be part of the system while criticizing it. “If I end up being arrested, they will change their language. Just as they changed for Boris Nemtsov, the opponent accused by some of being a ‘Kremlin agent’. He ended up murdered,” he replies.

“Foreign agent” in the eyes of the Kremlin, Alexei Venediktov is also on the list of “war supporters” of opponents who reproach him for his contacts with the authorities. “It’s the result of my work: I talk to everyone. Each side blames me for contacts with the other. I am not an opposition journalist. I am a journalist by profession! “And to conclude:” At 67, I will not change. I don’t care about reviews. I continue. »

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