The Business of Shutting Down Newspapers

What is interesting about the Kremlin’s bureaucratic attack upon the caustic ex-patriot satire newspaper The Exile (it is a little exhausting to always write eXile), is not that it is simply another case of media censorship by the state, but rather the discomfort of the paper’s owner and fans about being turned into a cause celeb for freedom of speech. It appears to be an unnatural role. After all, the most favorite past time of the editors was to mercilessly bash the political opposition that had been harping on and on the dangerous whims of the leviathan against freedom of expression. Irony, it seems, is alive and well inside the new authoritarian state. Of course there were also plenty of articles in Exile making a mockery of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, but in general the humorless wrath was best left for criticizing Western press coverage of Russia. Oh well, at least no one can complain that their plight is being ignored … here comes the deluge of coverage in the English language media. Associated Press: Irreverent Moscow expat newspaper shutting down under government pressure The National: Russia Silences Tabloid St. Petersburg Times: Barring ‘Miracle,’ Expat Paper eXile Is ‘Dead’ UPI: Moscow inspectors frighten eXile investors And of course, Mark Ames yet again with a dispatch on Radar:

Another Western reporter told me that when he called the ministry spokesman, that the man “exploded” and barked, “Why is everyone calling me about the Exile?!” As the reporter explained, “It sounded like my call was about the 15th call he’d taken in the last hour, and he couldn’t take anymore. It was kind of funny.” Perhaps. But pissed-off Russian bureaucrats don’t have a bygones-be-bygones habit of popping open a Miller with people who piss them off at the end of the day. When they get angry, they have a nasty habit of…actually I’d rather not think about that right now. They already made me pay this humiliating fine for a paper that they’d taken away from me. Tomorrow I’m to be interviewed in the anti-Kremlin media outlet New Times. Meanwhile, the story is finally getting delayed coverage in the English-language print media. I’m not sure if that’s buying me some time here, or just pissing off the ministry officials even more.