Leonid Parfyonov is the former editor-in-chief of Russian Newsweek, a television host well-known for a stream of successful, mainly non-political programmes.
But after taking to the stage last Thursday to receive a prestigious award on Russian television, Parfyonov began a five-minute speech (Watch here) slamming federal television channels for sycophantically churning out propaganda in service of the state, all before a stone-faced audience of Russian TV royalty:
National television information services have become part of the government. Journalistic topics, like all life, have been irrevocably divided into those that can be shown on TV and those that cannot. This isn’t information any more this is PR or anti-PR by the authorities.
The speech has sent waves through the media. It’s been called a coup de grace for state TV, prompting talk of a “new perestroika”.
A number of journalists have written opinion pieces based on the speech deepening the divide between print journalism and Russia’s powerful television news networks.
Parfyonov also said he’d visited Kommersant Journalist Oleg Kashin in hospital two weeks after Kashin was nearly beaten to death outside his apartment building.
Journalists are targeted “not because of what they write, say off film, but simply because [their work] is read, heard or seen”, he said.
Parfyonov wasn’t available for comment over the weekend. His wife said her husband might lose his job at Channel One. It’s unclear whether the authorities were aware of the critical speech beforehand or whether Parfyonov staged a lone act of rebellion.
Still, Channel One chose to cut the speech from their coverage of the awards ceremony.