Russia's press puts price on kind words

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The Independent Online
RUSSIA'S BIGGEST selling newspaper is offering to publish written- to-order articles for politicians, throwing a public spotlight for the first time on an ugly form of cheque-book journalism secretly practised in Moscow's newsrooms.

Less than eight years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, efforts to create an honest and vibrant media have been undermined by a scam known as "zakazukha", in which journalists pen favourable articles in return for cash.

But now the racket has been thrust into the open by the respected Argumenty i Facty weekly which has openly begun soliciting politicians to pay for advertising dressed up as news. It has announced plans to set up a subsidiary to provide image-making services to candidates in elections, offering a money-back guarantee if clients do not win. Pieces would be published under a column called "Elections", and separated from other news.

However, the paper has admitted that it will not always be possible to distinguish these articles from other coverage.

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