Committed to Preserving Free Press in Russia
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Committed to Preserving Free Press in Russia

Media-Most’s efforts to build an independent media conglomerate in post-Soviet Russia encountered the enmity of the country’s president. This unleashed a torrent of government raids, investigations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, which ultimately forced the client into exile.

Paul Holmes

Media-Most’s efforts to build an independent media conglomerate in post-Soviet Russia encountered the enmity of the country’s president. This unleashed a torrent of government raids, investigations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, which ultimately forced the client into exile. At stake was not only the client’s safety and well being, but also his extensive business holdings. More importantly, the client symbolized the fate of press freedom in contemporary Russia.
To combat the Kremlin’s campaign of intimidation, APCO developed a strategy to bring international attention to the threats on Media-Most, who owned and operated the only independently operated media company in Russia, and the plight of press freedoms in Russia. The strategy called for an intensive communications effort to put the client’s crusade for press freedoms on the front pages and editorial sections of Western news publications. This was combined with a government relations effort aimed at the highest levels in the U.S. Congress and State Department to make press freedoms a priority issue in U. S. - Russian bilateral relations.
Media-Most’s TV station and various publications had come to represent the only hope for an independently operated media and the future of press freedoms in Russia. The client’s insistence on professional and often critical reporting of the news clearly angered the Russian president and others in the Kremlin, prompting a crack down on the client’s business and media operations. This included over 30 raids and other forms of harassment by government authorities (tax and law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the courts). Eventually the client was arrested and imprisoned.
At the Kremlin’s direction, a state-owned company, Gazprom, used its large equity position and board membership in Media-Most and NTV to force a take over and closure of the client’s media companies. The Kremlin’s campaign against the client and independent news reporting was so intense that only international reaction and outside pressures on President Putin could free the client and ensure press freedoms in Russia.
Research consisted of an extensive review of all Western media sources and the preparation of daily summary statements for Media-Most. In addition, APCO supplied Media-Most with regular monitoring of developments on Capitol Hill and of government agencies regarding U.S. government policies on the client’s situation.
No opportunity existed to receive fair and just treatment in what had become a hostile and even dangerous environment in the client’s home country. APCO’s task was to mobilize and channel U.S. government outrage and media support as a means of protecting the rights and interests of Media-Most and forestalling the impending threats to press freedoms in Russia.
The objective was to rally U.S. government and media support against the Kremlin’s actions toward the client and his media holdings
The strategy was to promote the Media-Most enterprise and its unfailing commitment to an independent and free press, to show the client is helping shape democracy in the former Soviet Union; Educate U.S. policy-makers, Western media and select organizations on the situation and encourage them to condemn the Russian government’s actions that suppress press freedoms; Engage with Congress and the Clinton and Bush Administrations to apply pressure on the Kremlin to support press freedoms and cease its attacks on the client and his media holdings.
 The firm identified and developed strategic networks compatible with Media-Most’s interests, focusing on political and policy areas, media, business and other influential organizations; educated interested parties in the U.S. and Europe about Media-Most’s business and media operations and how they were threatened by an increasingly hostile atmosphere in the Kremlin; arranged introductions and meetings for the client to build relationships in the U.S. and gain the support of influential public and private sector leaders; Organized receptions and events in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles to highlight the client’s status as a credible and courageous businessman and advocate of press freedoms in Russia.
On the government relations front, the PR team developed awareness and support in Congress and Clinton Administration, linking Media-Most’s efforts to promotion of human rights, religious and press freedoms in Russia; provided information to supporters in Congress, the Executive Branch, think tanks and media about the Kremlin’s crackdown on press freedoms in Russia; assisted Members of Congress and committee staff to prepare and introduce resolutions and Congressional Record statements about freedom of the press in Russia; and worked to set up Congressional hearings and Capitol Hill meetings to highlight Russian government threats to private media outlets.
The team also arranged brief Congressional delegation trips to Russia on these issues; organized meetings and enlisted support of Bush Transition Team, who provided on-going top-level support of the client; Expanded support in Congress of the client’s situation; distributed State Department’s Report on Human Rights highlighting Russia’s crack down on press freedoms in Russia.
The crisis management team developed support base in the policy community and among human rights and journalist groups, the State Department and media to speak out on the Kremlin’s crude attempts to shut down the client’s TV station; accelerated efforts to engage Congressional leaders and the Bush Administration, including drafting a resolution linking Russia’s membership in G-7, to pressure the Putin Government on its hostile actions against the client and his media outlets; provided intelligence and tracking of Media-Most’s adversaries, including the head of Gazprom’s media division, on their efforts in the U.S. to undermine the client’s credibility while maneuvering to take over Media-Most properties; and  mobilized a strong U.S. reaction to the client’s imprisonment in Spain pending a ruling on a Russian-issued extradition order (later deemed baseless by a Spanish court).
This included a visit by a prominent U.S. Congressman to the prison that resulted in the client’s release. The team also maintained day-to-day contacts with U.S. officials and media outlets to ensure they were updated on the client’s situation in Moscow and Spain.
On the media relations front, APCO cultivated media interest and feature articles on the client’s business success, humanitarian contributions and efforts to promote press freedoms and human rights in Russia; and generated heightened press coverage about attacks on press freedoms in Russia and particularly hostile actions to force Media-Most into bankruptcy.
The U. S. government and media support rallied against the Kremlin’s relentless attacks on the client and his media holdings: APCO delivered urgently needed media attention and political support in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and on Capitol Hill that prevented even more onerous actions by the Putin government; Produced no fewer than twenty expressions of concern in Congress, including House and Senate resolutions, letters to foreign leaders and statements in the Congressional Record.
APCO’s efforts led to a number of congressional hearings and press conferences in support of the client, and a trip by an influential Congressman to Spain resulting in the client’s release from prison; Arranged a series of meetings for the client with the U.S. State Department and other government departments, as well as assisted the client in meeting with the Bush transition team. The firm succeeded in getting the State Department to list freedom of the press, with an emphasis on Media-Most, as a top priority in U.S. - Russia relations.
The client’s saga with the Russian government received front-page coverage by all major newspapers and enjoyed universal editorial support by the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.
Article tags
Issues Management
View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus