How to Become British for Only £1
- By Alexei Pankin
- Jan. 27 2009 00:00
Lebedev has a history of supporting opposition investigative newspapers that were unprofitable. He is best known as the main financial supporter of Novaya Gazeta, the leading nationwide opposition publication that is recognized around the world for its superb investigative journalism.
In addition, during the 1990s, his National Reserve Bank was among the main sponsors of Obshchaya Gazeta, a weekly newspaper founded by Yegor Yakovlev, who was best remembered for the role he played in advancing independent media during Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost. The newspaper, which consistently criticized President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s and President Vladimir Putin at the beginning of his first presidential term, was shut down in 2002 after Yakovlev got fed up with begging his sponsors for money.
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It is safe to say that Lebedev will bring his rebellious spirit to his newly acquired British newspaper. He told reporters last week that he intends to use The Evening Standard "to help Putin fight corruption."
London has become a popular home for Russian oligarchs both in and out of favor with the Kremlin, which opens up new opportunities for investigative journalism. For example, it would never occur to Putin -- or the majority of Russians -- that Boris Berezovsky received political asylum in Britain for his democratic convictions, not in return for a bribe made to a high-ranking official in her majesty's government. To put an end to this debate, Lebedev can easily ask a few journalists at The Evening Standard to write an investigative piece to definitively confirm or refute the allegation that Berezovsky paid for his status as a political refugee.
I expect that Lebedev will do his best to make sure that the spirit of Novaya Gazeta is applied to The Evening Standard. Lebedev could also send journalists from The Evening Standard to Novaya Gazeta and vice versa to share investigative journalism skills and experience.
In the end, it is entirely possible that the British governing elite will be depicted in The Evening Standard in the same critical way that the Russia elite are depicted in Novaya Gazeta. But this raises a logical question: Does it make sense for an honest oligarch like Lebedev to spend even ?1 to buy his way into the British elite?
Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP Magazine for publishing business professionals.