The editor-in-chief of one of many few impartial Russian-language retailers resigned from his position Friday, probably the most high-profile individual to have stepped down resulting from a sexual harassment allegation in Russia.
Ivan Kolpakov was, till his resignation, editor-in-chief at Meduza, which was based by Russian journalists 4 years in the past after they had been squeezed out by Kremlin-friendly takeovers at their earlier retailers. It’s primarily based in Latvia and has change into one of many main publications keen to problem the Kremlin’s model of occasions, together with publishing studies on the tried assassination of Sergei Skripal in the UK. (Meduza has a reporting partnership with BuzzFeed Information.)
The outlet has additionally been one of many few in Russia to cowl #MeToo within the nation, final 12 months reporting on a bunch of journalists’ harassment claims in opposition to Leonid Slutsky, a strong member of the Russian parliament. Meduza additionally printed a information on what ladies ought to do in the event that they face harassment within the office.
That historical past helped gasoline the storm across the outlet’s dealing with of allegations that Kolpakov had groped the spouse of a colleague at a celebration in October — telling her, in response to Meduza, “You’re the one one I can get away with harassing.”
The girl’s husband got here ahead two days after the incident, in response to Meduza’s telling of the incident posted on Fb and in an article in English, and Kolpakov supplied to be suspended whereas an investigation occurred. Two weeks later, Meduza mentioned that its board of administrators concluded that there was no motive to consider the incident hadn’t occurred and condemned Kolpakov — however took no additional motion in opposition to him, figuring out he’d by no means harassed anybody earlier than whereas at Meduza.
In a Fb publish accompanying an announcement of the choice, Meduza CEO Galina Timchenko supported Kolpakov and lashed out at his critics. “Those that have a look at themselves within the mirror and declare they haven’t made any errors or performed something nasty of their life are both liars or bastards,” she wrote.
Following the choice, the worker who introduced the grievance stepped down.
The backlash to the choice got here rapidly, igniting a passionate dialog on Russian Fb and Telegram that gave perception into Russian attitudes towards sexual harassment and the #MeToo motion extra broadly. Many issued phrases of help for Kolpakov, arguing that the incident didn’t represent harassment or that it ought to have been handled by means of Kolpakov and the husband preventing it out.
Others criticized Meduza for failing to adequately take care of the matter. Elena Kostyuchenko, a journalist at main investigative outlet Novaya Gazeta, wrote that the board’s selection was “form of an ordinary story. Ladies are leaving — together with from [journalism], to completely different levels humiliated, [while] bosses keep. I do know precisely just one story when it occurred in any other case. That’s why we are usually silent.”
The #MeToo motion — and a tradition that acknowledges sexual harassment typically — has been gradual to catch on inside Russia, together with in its liberal circles. There is no such thing as a regulation on the books in Russia that bans sexual harassment. In 2008, a decide threw out simply the third case the place a lady had sued for harassment as a result of, in his view, with out it “we might don’t have any youngsters.” Earlier this 12 months, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson in contrast #MeToo victims to prostitutes.
Amid the storm over Meduza’s dealing with of the incident, Kolpakov wrote on Fb early Friday that he was stepping down as editor-in-chief, saying, “I depart as a result of I see no different approach out” and “as a result of it will be higher for Meduza.”
“In regards to the so-called incident. I categorically refuse to confess expenses of harassment and sexual harassment,” he continued. “However I discovered myself in a scenario the place it’s unattainable and mindless to defend myself.” Kolpakov had earlier mentioned that he had gotten “very drunk and offended the spouse of a Meduza worker.”
Neither Kolpakov nor Timchenko instantly responded to BuzzFeed Information’ requests for remark Friday.
Just like the preliminary determination, Kolpakov’s resignation ignited a heated debate.
Anton Karliner, cochair of the Russian Journalists Union, instructed the Moscow Instances that it was “a milestone” for Russian retailers. “In fact this doesn’t clear up all of our issues, however the resignation is an efficient step,” he mentioned.
Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, editor-in-chief of the New Instances, known as the transfer an “grownup, albeit a painful step,” including that “dignity and justice is extra vital than effectivity.”
“His retirement is a large loss for Meduza,” Sergey Parkhomenko, a distinguished Russian journalist and adviser to the Wilson Middle, a US assume tank, wrote on Fb. “Till he finds sufficient skilled use for himself, this will probably be an enormous harm to at present’s Russian journalism as a complete.”
Whereas Kolpakov will now not be editor-in-chief, his Fb publish appears to depart the door open to some position working with Meduza. “I’m nonetheless one of many three founders of Meduza. And I’ll take part as a lot as I can in its work. However not as a frontrunner,” he wrote.