It is clear that the makers of NTV’s program ‘Debtors of the State Department’ broadcast on 4 March, 2016 made no effort to provide a factual portrayal of MDIF and the independent media companies to which it provides loan financing. The program followed its own agenda, which appeared to be aimed solely at compromising independent Russian media in this year of parliamentary elections and preceding the year of preparation for presidential elections.
The program was not an act of balanced journalism but one of pure propaganda, full of untruths, half-truths and innuendo. Though the broadcast does not merit serious discussion, we feel obliged to correct some of the most serious errors and omissions.
- MDIF’s sources of financing are very diverse and include investment funds, banks, development institutions, foundations and individual investors from several countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. MDIF has worked with more than 50 funders and investors – including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations – and no single funder is responsible for a majority of MDIF financing. Contrary to the program’s efforts at innuendo, MDIF has no relationship with the US government. It has been years since MDIF received any US government funding at all, it accounted for less than 1% of all our funding to date, and was focused on media training in Southeast Asia, having nothing at all to do with Russia or Russian media. We are transparent about our work and a list of all major investors and funders is available on our website.
- The suggestion that MDIF interferes in the editorial policies of its borrowers is entirely false. We are prohibited from doing so by our charter documents. Our standard loan agreement has the following reference to editorial content of our borrowers. It says that ‘The Borrower shall conduct its business in conformity with the general practice of independent, nonpartisan, pluralistic, tolerant and responsible media” – precisely to make sure the companies we invest in don’t violate journalistic ethics and don’t support any specific political force. Our Loan agreements can be terminated early purely for business reasons, i.e. a borrower’s non-payment, a change in a borrower’s ownership etc.
- The reasons behind our decision to terminate our loan agreement with Andrei Mazov’s Tulskiye Novosti were entirely about business: the company defaulted on its loan payments. The company stopped making payments in April 2015. We made multiple offers to ease the repayment schedule (due to the ruble devaluation, many of our borrowers had difficulties with payments and we rescheduled many). After Mr. Mazov failed to respond to our offers for 6 months, , we made the decision to put Tulskiye Novosti in default. Prior to starting court enforcement, our lawyer called Mr. Mazov to propose an out of court settlement. This is usual practice in such situations and provides disputing parties with an opportunity to agree on an outcome without having recourse to the courts and all the costs that entails. It is not clear why in the program the offer of an out-of-court settlement was presented with such mystery and even criminal innuendo. It has nothing to do with blackmail (as presented in the program), but with giving our borrower a last chance to agree on repayments prior to transferring the case to court. Mr Mazov’s claims in the program are nothing more than a smokescreen to hide his company’s breach of contract and refusal to meet his payment obligations.
We stand by the facts presented above and allow for their publication should journalists or our borrowers be interested in using them in their rebuttals.