A high-ranking editor and a top executive from one of Russia’s most respected news publications were dismissed on Tuesday after an apparent conflict over coverage that appeared to highlight widespread anger with the results of parliamentary elections this month. The dismissals followed the publication this week of an election issue of the newsmagazine Kommersant Vlast, which detailed accusations of large-scale electoral fraud by the ruling party, United Russia, and included a photograph of a ballot scrawled with profanity directed against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
The firings came as tensions built between the Kremlin and a new constituency of reform-minded activists who held a protest against the election results here last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people. President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced on Tuesday that the first session of the new parliament would be held on Dec. 21, an indication that the Kremlin would not concede to increasingly vocal calls for new elections.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest movement met to plan what they said would be an even bigger demonstration on Dec. 24, and vowed not to relent in their demands. The tremors from this standoff have been particularly acute in the city’s print and online newsrooms. Under Mr. Putin, the authorities have generally tolerated a community of liberal-minded journalists whose criticism of the Kremlin has often been withering, but not widely broadcast.
“But there are rules,” said Yevgeniya Albats, the editor in chief of New Times, a magazine strongly critical of the Kremlin. “Do not touch Putin.”
Yet an apparent desire by journalists to probe the limits these days has brought some into confrontation with their bosses.
This week’s issue of Kommersant Vlast had several articles detailing bald attempts at falsification in the recent election apparently aimed at boosting the results of United Russia. One article warned that the declining popularity of United Russia would lead to a “tightening of the screws.”
The magazine’s cover showed Mr. Putin, lighted from the bottom and with a sinister expression, standing before a voting machine.
But it was the photograph of the ballot, apparently defaced in protest, that caused an uproar.
Scribbled across the ballot in thick orange marker was a searing Russian expletive in reference to the male anatomy, suggesting Mr. Putin should leave power. Beneath the profanity, which can lead to a fine or arrest if uttered in public here, a caption read sarcastically : “A correctly marked ballot that was ruled invalid.”
Full Article: Russian Journalists Fired After Tough Election Coverage.