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Head of IMI refuses a German freedom of speech award after being nominated together with Venediktov

06.12.2022, 18:22
Photo credit: National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting
Photo credit: National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting

IMI executive director Oksana Romaniuk refused the Johann Philipp Palm International Award for Freedom of Speech and the Press, as she had been nominated together with the Russian journalist and "Ekho Moskvy" founder, Alexei Venediktov. She announced this on her Facebook page.

The award ceremony took place on December 4 in Schorndorf, Germany. Alexei Venediktov noted that he is the first Russian citizen to receive this award.

"And I probably was the first Ukrainian woman to refuse it," Romaniuk noted.

She said that the award's organizers, the Palm Foundation, had written to her back in spring and said that she was being nominated together with Venediktov.

"Because Ukraine, Russia, symbolism, 'both countries were affected.' But I can't imagine myself physically standing on the same stage and sharing an award with Venediktov. With a Kremlin-authorized liberal, a political scientist who has repeatedly pushed Kremlin propaganda, publicly calling Putin his "only boss", boasted of his ties with Lavrov, Peskov, and other officials, and so on," she wrote.

Oksana Romaniuk is sure that Venediktov knows about her refusal, but accepted the award nonetheless.

She added that she had no complaints against the organizers, because they are "sincerely very far removed from our realities."

"This is Western European Christian ethics, peacemaking, "reach out to each other." We have been in touch with them for a long time and continue being in touch. It is not easy for them to go beyond their set worldview and realize what is happening here. But I know that I still managed to raise questions and internal discussions among them. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, and a lot of explanation to do to dispel the Russian imperial magic," said the executive director of IMI.

As IMI reported, on December 4, the former editor-in-chief of the "Ekho Moskvy" radio station, Alexei Venediktov, received the Johann Philipp Palm International award for Freedom of Speech and the Press.

In early March, at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office, Roskomnadzor blocked access to the website of "Ekho Moskvy". After that, the radio station's board of directors decided to liquidate the radio and the website. "Ekho Moskvy" decided to disable the website and delete all corporate social media accounts.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office accused "Ekho Moskvy" of purposefully and systematicly posting information with "calls for extremism, violence, as well as deliberately false information about the actions of Russian troops" in the war against Ukraine.

CJSC "Ekho Moskvy", which Venediktov headed for 24 years, is part of the Russian holding company "Gazprom-media". The holding owns 66% of the "Ekho Moskvy" shares.

In his August interview to Forbes, Alexei Venediktov said the Russian missile attack on Kremenchuk, Poltava oblast, was justified: in his opinion, it was not a war crime. "Yes, people die, but there is still a difference: it's one thing when during [the war] you fire and miss. It's another thing when you wanted to hit a kindergarten, a school. [...] These are different kinds of victims. There is an intention that makes you a criminal. It is the intention that makes a criminal," Venediktov responded.

The Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, Serhiy Kyslytsia, responded to Venediktov's statements by using a slang word to describe the journalist.

"Shyster / shiester / шайстер (slang) – one who acts unethically, unscrupulously, especially in legal practice, in politics. First book use in 1843, when swindlers in New York pretended to be lawyers. Same thing here – if you shell a shopping mall unintentionally, you are not a criminal, they say, but listen for yourself," the diplomat wrote on Twitter, publishing an excerpt from Venediktov's interview.

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