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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Corruption in Russian newspapers exposed By Marcus Warren in Moscow CORRUPTION in the Russian media was exposed at the weekend when more than a dozen leading newspapers were caught demanding money for publishing a bogus news story. All fell into a trap set by a public relations company which sent them details of the opening of a non-existent hi-fi shop and said it would pay for placing the story. Of 21 titles approached, 13 printed the story as a news item without checking. They charged the company from £90 to £1,200. It was the clearest illustration in years of the venal ways of the Russian press, which is willing to promote or libel anyone or anything if the price is right. The system is exploited by politicians, Russian and foreign companies and businessmen with criminal pasts trying to rehabilitate themselves or blacken their rivals. "We decided to expose the situation to try to achieve a more civilised market," Kirill Semyonov, director of the PR company, told the daily Kommersant. The company, Promaco, said it found it impossible to operate in a market dominated by dishonest competitors and newspapers. Among the papers which demanded a fee for publishing the story were the mass circulation titles Moskovsky Komsomolets and Komsomolskaya Pravda, as well as more up-market papers such as Nezavisimaya Gazeta. All praised the equipment on sale in the shop, some with quotes from its non-existent manager. Had they checked, they would have found that the site was vacant land. Kommersant, one of the two leading business papers, was among the publications not caught out. But one of its titles, Client, printed the story without checking whether it was true though it did not ask for payment. A Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, has reported finding evidence of a detention camp where Chechens are held in pits in the ground, the Interfax news agency said. Chechen prosecutors are to investigate.

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