INTERNATIONAL: Russian 'cash for coverage' expose lauded

MOSCOW: The exposure of the venality of the Russian media by St

Petersburg-based PR agency Promaco, has been welcomed by the

International Public Relations Association (IPRA) following a merely

lukewarm approval from the Russian Public Relations Association.



The controversy began when Promaco offered 21 Moscow newspapers cash in

exchange for coverage of a store opening. Sixteen publications entered

into negotiations, with 13 running a story, only for Promaco to then

reveal that no store actually existed.



The IPRA condemned the practice of 'cash for editorial'. Its president

Alasdair Sutherland said: 'This is a world issue, not just a Russian

one', adding that 'as long as the practice of illicit paid-for editorial

continues ... the public can never have confidence in what they

read'.



Sutherland said that the IPRA is setting up an 'anti-zakazukha' (paid

advertising masquerading as news) committee, with a view to stamping out

the practice, while the Russian Anti-Monopoly Committee has held talks

with the Moscow Jounalists' Union.



Promaco has been accused of 'premeditated provocation' for inciting the

press to break Russian laws requiring the distinguishing of advertising

and editorial copy.



However Alexei Sinikov, president of Moscow's Image Contact PR agency,

and a senior member of the Russian arm of the IPRA, warned: 'It's

important for Westerners to understand that many people here do not yet

grasp the concept of a free press, and believe everything has still got

to be paid for.'



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