|Putin saved under-fire radio station from closure—editor|
|Friday, 20 January 2012|
The editor of a liberal radio station which came under attack from strongman Vladimir Putin said Thursday he was in fact grateful to the strongman who saved the state-controlled outlet from closure.
On Wednesday evening Putin targeted the Echo of Moscow at a dinner with journalists, attended by its editor Alexei Venediktov, saying the free-wheeling outlet poured ""diarrhoea" over him all day long and served the interests of a foreign state.
Speaking to AFP after the highly publicised dressing-down, Venediktov said he was not afraid for the future of his radio station and revealed that Putin had in fact protected Echo of Moscow from attacks by state officials in his decade in power.
"I know that during his presidency he three times prevented Echo's closure. All the papers would be ready, all the officials below him would sign off on them, they would go to him, and he would say: 'No!'" Venediktov said.
"'They buzz about of course but let them work,' he would say. This is the quote," Venediktov said, adding that he told Putin he was grateful for that.
Owned by state gas company Gazprom, the station often criticises the Russian government and suffered a hacker attack in the runup to last month's parliamentary elections that took it offline for nearly a day.
"So I don't see any problems here. If they want to shut it down, they will. But I did not feel threatened. I sensed the usual displeasure of a head of government over the actions of a free media outlet," Venediktov said.
"As we learned yesterday, he listens to Echo of Moscow. Why would he shut down a boutique which he uses?"
Venediktov admitted that Wednesday's jab might have been Putin's most public attack at the radio station yet but noted the strongman prime minister had also critised the station in the past.
"If we are talking about semi-public things the prime minister expressed to me his extreme displeasure over Echo of Moscow's editorial policies during the war with Georgia," he said, referring to Moscow's five-day war with Tbilisi in 2008.
Putin also took issue with the radio's coverage of the sinking of the Kursk submarine with all 118 on board in 2000 and the 2003 arrest of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of tax evasion that his supporters say were a punishment for his opposition views.
"But that was not public," Venediktov said, noting that the Russian leader had not followed up his criticism with concrete demands to change the editorial policies.
Venediktov also said he held no grudges against Putin for his choice of words, having grown used to it over 12 years.
© AFP 2011. All rights reserved.
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