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“Pucci made us famous.”Life and Death of Siberia’s Top Independent Television Channel

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Viktor Muchnik (right) in the 2015 TV2 News Room

In the 1990s, Tomsk’s TV2 emerged as one of Russia’s most notable independent media. Under Editor-in-Chief Viktor Muchnik, the television station survived the early days of Vladimir Putin’s reign, but lost its broadcast license after Russia merged Crimea in 2014. Nevertheless, TV2 journalists continued to report on the full-scale invasion of Ukraine for about a week.Like dozens of other outlets, TV2 Forced Shut down the Kremlin during the war control About the rest of Russia’s free press. However, the editor-in-chief remained determined to record the fallout from the war. To find out more about the rise and fall of TV2 and what former journalists have been doing, Medusa sat with Viktor Muchnik.

Viktor Muchnik taught history at Tomsk State University in 1990. At that time, a journalist approached him with his usual thoughts. Reporter Arkadi Mayofis worked for Tomsk’s state television station and was quite famous in the cities of Siberia. However, getting tired of the state media, he was thinking of quitting his job and launching himself. “He came up with the idea for the non-state television channel TV2. This idea seemed absolutely crazy to me,” Muchnik told Meduza. “It was 1990-everything was state-owned!”

Mayofis wanted Muknick to host a television show about historical figures. It’s more interesting to talk about bad things, “Muchnik remembers what he said. In this way, TV2’s first show, “The Great Rogue of History,” was born.

According to Muchnik, TV2 was initially popular as a free channel to watch American movies in Tomsk. (“In 1991, there was no concept of copyright. [in the USSR].. I bought a cassette at the kiosk and aired it, “he explained. “I couldn’t even think of what we were doing illegally. After all, I bought a cassette!”).But that was their coverage in 1991 August Pucci I put TV2 on the map.

“TV2 was the only Tomsk-based media that talked about what was happening in Moscow. We were broadcasting all three days,” Muchnik recalled. The channel had a movie crew in the capital and sent the tape back to Siberia via a friendly Aeroflot pilot. Returning to Tomsk, TV2 reporters gathered commentary over the phone and recorded a local segment of the coup attempt.

“The Communist Party gave us the best publicity. Anyone who had never heard of TV2 learned about our existence. It was a fun time,” Muchnik lovingly recalled. .. “Pucci has made us the most famous media in the city.”

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“Then Putin came.”

In 1994, Arkady Mayofis spoke to Viktor Muchnik to become the editor-in-chief of TV2. By the early 2000s, it had grown from a single camera operation to the Tomsk Media Group, which launched two more television channels and four radio stations.

“The first bell is Dissolution of NTV“Muknick told Medusa. “At that time I was even arguing with many of Tomsk’s colleagues and acquaintances. They told me that these were” Moscow confrontations “, and I replied:” It reached us and to everyone. Will affect, you will see with NTV today [its founder Vladimir] Gusinsky, tomorrow TV2 and Mayofis. “

TV2’s Muchnik and his colleagues quickly realized that the country was “going for authoritarianism.” “Psychologically, we were prepared for this and understood that there was a price to pay for our editorial policy. Many of us, including owners and business owners, are ready to pay for it. It was done, “he said.

For some time, they were able to continue broadcasting from a regional angle of TV2 coverage. But the channel was always under pressure. “The first time they tried to shut down TV2 was in 2007,” Muchnik recalls. “Roskomnadzor issued two warnings about the license breach. Everyone thought the channel was dead, but it wasn’t. We survived.”

TV2 did not change its editorial policy after fear of closure. Instead, the newsroom began planning the worst. “Since 2007, we’ve started talking more often about what to do when shut down,” Muchnik told Meduza.

“Incompatible with reality”

The station was stagnant until 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and caused a war in Donbus. At this point, TV2, as Muchnik says, is “incompatible with reality.” In addition to increasing pressure from authorities for the press, the channel has lost most of its viewers. “Our information policy at the time infuriated many,” the editor-in-chief explained.

“There were rumors that we were working under the protection of the CIA. [U.S.] State Department etc.It was clear who was behind it and that this was the preparation for the attack [by the authorities]”Muchnik continued. “We were magnificent Removed the air New Year’s Eve. ”

After TV2 was banned from satellite and cable broadcasts, Muchnik set out to rebuild. “I felt like I was back in 1990, but I was a little older,” he recalled switching from television to digital news. “It was all very interesting.”

Unlike television, where viewers were old, news sites attracted young viewers not only from Tomsk but from all over Siberia. At the same time, Muchnik knew that both he and his colleagues were still at risk.

“I had no illusions about my future. At some point, they weren’t just in the media. [outlet], But me too.I understand that everyone in Russia has to be prepared to sit down [in prison] For a while, what if they beat one of my colleagues? “

“It wasn’t difficult to leave Russia.”

TV2 was able to cover Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine for over a week. Live coverage of the newsroom was immediately warned by Roskomnadzor.Censorship agency issued a second notice on March 4th I was blocked The TV2 website that same day.

“After the adoption of the’fake news’law [about the Russian military] Everything was clear, “Muchnik told Meduza. “I gathered people in the newsroom and said:’In this situation, the state does not allow us to work as we want, and we do not allow the state to work as we want. There is none.”

Background

The editor-in-chief and his team said goodbye to the audience. Farewell post With social media video The last day of the news room. When I saw TV2 shut down for the second time, Muchnik was in a “very angry” state. And in addition to being afraid of his colleagues, he was fed up with those who threw their support behind the war.

Muchnik and his wife (who also worked on TV2) decided it was time to leave Russia. “I lived in Tomsk for the rest of my life. It wasn’t difficult for me to leave Russia, but it was difficult for me to leave Tomsk,” he told Medusa.

Some of their colleagues have also left the country. However, the journalists did not immediately reorganize. “The fact that TV2 was the local media created further difficulties — we were separated from the normal audience,” Muchnik said.

TV2 editorial staff

Eventually, a former TV2 journalist came up with the new idea of ​​an oral history-inspired project called “Eyewitnesses.”Ochevidtsy In Russian). “A large-scale historical event that will change the lives of many people forever is happening now. And I’m witnessing what’s happening — I can bring a camera and talk. Ordinary people [with]”Muchnik explained. “I thought some historians would be grateful for this in the future.”

Today, journalists working on the Witness Project are collecting articles in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia.The interview they took upload You can access the YouTube channel on TV2. There is also a dedicated Telegram channel that publishes letters received from people who want to share their stories.

Muchnik emphasized that Eyewitnesses is not a rebranding of TV2. Also, the former editor-in-chief of the channel has no plans to return to Tomsk soon. “As long as Putin is alive, I can’t imagine myself returning to Russia. It’s not just personal risk. At the human level, I’m in the same space as the people who started and helped the war. It’s unbearable to do, “Muchnik said. “The authorities consider me an enemy, and in general it’s right to do so. I’m their enemy.”

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interview To Cyrillic Buquetov

Summary by Irish heart

https://meduza.io/en/feature/2022/06/25/the-putsch-made-us-famous “Pucci made us famous.”Life and Death of Siberia’s Top Independent Television Channel

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