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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

USAID Grants $475,000 To Paper

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Wednesday its largest single grant to the Russian media, a $475,000 printing press intended to free a provincial newspaper from local government pressure.

If all goes as planned, the independent Volgograd newspaper Gorodskiye Vesti will roll off a modern, U.S.-donated printing press in April, allowing the private publisher to improve the publication's quality and end its dependence on government-controlled printers.

The grant includes purchase and installation of a new offset press and personnel training to run it.

The project is administered by the Media Development Program, a $10 million, three-year USAID effort to support the development of independent print and broadcast media in Russia.

While freedom of the press has taken root in Moscow since the fall of communism, Russia's provincial press often remains under direct government ownership or is tightly controlled by local administrations through their monopolies on printing plants.

"Only financial independence will enable us to defend ourselves from the pressure of the local administration," said Anatoly Karman, the general director of the enterprise which publishes Gorodskiye Vesti, at a news conference Wednesday in Moscow.

He said the press should provide print quality "unheard of" in Volgograd and help the paper's publishers to be entirely self-sufficient and profitable.

"Otherwise, the local press is so boldly manipulated that it is very dangerous to stick out your head," Karman said.

Robert Coalson, director of the Media Development Program, said the Volgograd printing-press project is the only grant of its kind and is viewed as a pilot project for future investors.

He said such a project could be commercially viable in any Russian city with a population of more than 100,000. The program is currently working on 10 to 15 business plans from provincial Russian publishers and is intended to facilitate foreign investment in similar printing presses.

"The time of grants is running out," said Iosif Dzialoshinsky, director of the Institute of Humanitarian Communications, a nonprofit media assistance organization. He said international foundations can be useful as facilitators of low-interest foreign loans and investment projects.

Dzialoshinsky said international foundations feel a growing resentment in Russia. Local officials and some Russian media routinely accuse them of infiltrating Russia to gather intelligence and influence local elites.

The publishers of Gorodskiye Vesti were attacked recently in the Volgograd local government-controlled newspaper for allegedly selling out to Americans.