Managers of a Russian TV channel say they will not punish a newsreader who mistakenly reported that the Russian internet community was actively discussing whether Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should be buried.
A YouTube video of Krasnoyarsk’s private TVK channel newsreader Maria Bukhtuyeva saying that Russian billionaire presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov had proposed holding a referendum on “whether Vladimir Putin should be buried” went viral on the Russian internet, gathering more than 325,000 views over the weekend.
In fact, Prokhorov proposed considering burying the 1917 Russian Revolution leader Vladimir Lenin, whose embalmed body has been on display in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square since his death in 1924.
Bukhtuyeva’s slip of the tongue – for which she apologized later during the news broadcast – triggered a storm of comments from internet users, some of whom suggested that the Friday program could be the newsreader’s last.
But TVK executive director Ksenia Cherepanova dismissed the allegations.
“I don’t understand those discussions,” Cherepanova told RIA Novosti by telephone. “It was just a slip of the tongue, and when I am asked whether we are going to fire her, I reply: ‘On what grounds?’”
"There will certainly be no sanctions – we haven’t even discussed it,” she said, adding: “TV channels usually spend millions on promotion, while we managed to do it free.”
“Honestly,” she added, “I am shocked that our people are so cowed. They believe that local [media] are so afraid of some divine scourge… that’s not true.”
Unlike nationwide state TV channels, whose editorial policies have long been criticized by Russia’s civil activists for avoiding any criticism of the authorities, Russia’s private channels are believed to be more independent in their editorial policies.
Yet, media criticism of Putin does not always go unpunished. In December, the owner of the Kommersant publishing house, Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov, fired two senior managers of the Kommersant Vlast magazine after they published a photo depicting an election ballot with a hand-written obscene remark aimed at the premier.
Suggestions about Bukhtuyeva’s possible dismissal could also be based on a similar case in November last year, when a news reader of federal private channel REN-TV was fired after an on-air episode in which she made a rude gesture while mentioning the U.S. President Barack Obama.
Award-winning REN TV presenter Tatiana Limanova was accused of “unprofessionalism” by the channel’s management. She later said she did not know she was on camera when she made the gesture, which she said was intended for station technicians.