On the 5 March Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya, was inducted into the Union of Journalists of Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Union of Journalists. How can a serving politician, who is not a journalist, become a member? This question was asked by the many posts and press reports that inundated the web. Several well-known journalists announced they would cancel their membership if the information proved to be true. It did.
Kadyrov was given membership for his service to journalism in the Chechen Republic and ‘securing optimal conditions for the independent operation of the press’. He got his certificate and union ID from his minister of external relations and press, Shamsail Saraliev.
Igor Yakovenko, head of the secretariat of the RUJ, found all this out from the Internet. At a press conference on 6 March, Yakovenko informed the media that the union secretariat had unanimously decided to veto Kadyrov’s membership. The decision of the Chechen branch was cancelled as contradictory to the charter.
This step was riposted by an official statement by the Chechen Union of Journalists claiming mass resignations from the Russian union in protest.
One can only guess what happened during the last three weeks, but on 23 March Vsevolod Bogdanov, chair of the RUJ, came to visit Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. At a meeting with Chechen media he made a new statement: ‘I’d like to convey my personal apologies to the President of the Chechen Republic for the decisions made by some of my colleagues.’
On the RUJ website, Mr Bogdanov explained that he personally supported his Chechen colleagues’ initiative to make Kadyrov a member in recognition of his assistance to the press in his republic. ‘Afterwards this decision was vetoed, and I apologised for the inconveniences he experienced as a result.’
Bogdanov has also admitted that this was not the first case of granting membership as a public acknowledgement of governors’, politicians’ or heads of regions’ contributions to journalism. Unfortunately, he didn’t make himself clear: was it the last case? And is Kadyrov now welcome in the union?