Conflict & Justice

English-language newspaper closes in Moscow

(The problems for The Exile started when Russian authorities came with an unannounced audit of the newspaper, which then scared off investors. MA says the paper's mocking tone may have led to its downfall.) We got the notice of the audit as we were putting the last issue to bed, so I changed the cover and main story so it would have more resonance if it was our last issue. The paper has always been a cult, a writer's project; as a business project it was always a failure. As soon as the government put its eyes on us, people cut its business ties with us, and I don't blame them. It's scary when the government has its eyes trained on you. And for us, the consequences are not as bad as for local businessmen who have all their assets in local areas. (You waged your fight for free speech in novel ways. Give us a better idea of what the paper was about.) The Exile is a newspaper which we were told we could not do and we met a lot of opposition along the way. It was a mix of satire and real investigative journalism, media commentary and criticism. The Exile's biggest problem is its style and its tone. The authorities can handle mainstream and dull criticism of Putin's human rights records or his rollback of democracy. The Exile doesn't have boundaries though, and it threatens the regime's total control. The paper was attractive because of our dare-devil style. (Give us an example.) four years ago we did something called 101 Reasons Why Putin is a Fascist and on the cover we photoshopped Putin onto Hitler's body. The result was some unpleasant phone calls, a third of our distribution points refused to take us. We're also known for doing all sorts of pranks�we pranked Mikhail Gorbachev at one point, saying we were with the New York Jets and asking him to help the Jets out. (Was anybody taking you seriously?) Yeah, well they obviously did because they just shut us down. One of our regular writers was a famous writer in Russia and a leader of the anti-Kremlin opposition. He comes from a punk aesthetic so his articles are aggressive. (You have a complex relationship with Russia, working for both The Exile and another news channel which is more mainstream.) I actually didn't work for that news channel, they just showed my shows. But it didn't soften any of my work with The Exile. (It does seem weird because on your news channel you did give Putin credit for taking the power away from the oligarchs.) Well I didn't praise him, I just said he changed the culture, and that's right. (What's next for you?) I'm not sure if there's anything left here for me, but I don't know if I want to come back to the US. Offices scare me.

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