Apparently Oleg Deripaska does not hold the belief that bad publicity is better than no publicity. After Vedomosti published an article on October 26 claiming that the company had debts of just under $6 billion for last year, journalists at the business daily apparently found their inboxes flooded with harassing emails and relentless calls made to their cell phones from RusAl’s communications henchmen. With an upcoming attempt to woo foreign investors to the United Russia company’s debt-laden portfolio with a somewhat shaky-looking IPO, it is no wonder Deripaska is fuming.
Whilst the editor-in-chief of the paper, Elizaveta Osetinskaya, believes that the intimidation is fundamentally a revanchist attempt to locate the source of the leaked information, the campaign is nonetheless also a direct attack on the right of independent journalists to publish any information they garner. The Moscow Times reports on the subject, although it too has been denied access to the Rusal Press Office since an April article, quoting directly from workers at a Rusal plant, rather than seeking official info from the company’s spokespeople, incurred the aluminum giant’s wrath.
Vedomosti editor-in-chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya said RusAl accused the newspaper of breaking the law by publishing commercial secrets and was now waging a “war” to force it to reveal its source and prevent it from writing about the company again.
“UC RusAl and its lawyers from Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners have triggered an information terror [campaign] against Vedomosti,” Osetinskaya wrote in an unusually sharp post on her LiveJournal blog late last week. “Their goal is to make us stop writing fairly and objectively about one of the most closed companies in Russia, as we have done for the past 10 years.”
Vedomosti is a joint venture between The Wall Street Journal, theFinancial Times and Independent Media Sanoma Magazines, which is theparent company of The Moscow Times.
RusAl refused to comment for this article. The company’s press officehas rejected requests for comment from The Moscow Times since April,when the newspaper bypassed the press office to talk to RusAl workersabout conditions at their plant.
Dmitry Afanasiev, chairman of Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev &Partners, said Vedomosti was in breach of the law for publishingfinancial data from the RusAl presentation in three separate articles,even though it had been warned that the information was a commercialsecret.
“We have a number of legal options open to us against the newspaper andits editors, and we are currently reviewing these,” he said Sunday ine-mailed comments.
He did not address Vedomosti’s complaints of intimidation.
Read all here.