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Analysis: Teaching A Star How To Talk To A Journalist

  • Robert Coalson

Filipp Kirkorov is one of Russia's most high-profile pop stars and the husband of the legendary singer Alla Pugacheva. He has long had a scandalous reputation for arrogant behavior and has had a number of run-ins with journalists, but he has always come out with his popularity intact. So, most likely, he didn't think twice about taking on a young provincial journalist. But perhaps he should have.

At a 20 May press conference in Rostov-na-Donu, "Gazeta Dona" journalist Irina Aroyan asked Kirkorov why he has recorded so many cover songs lately, wondering if he had a shortage of original material. Kirkorov responded with a tirade of obscenities and boorishness that caught everyone present off-guard. Among other things, he insulted Aroyan's professionalism, said that he was "sick of [her] pink sweater," made sexually suggestive comments, and poked fun at her southern accent, telling her that she should "learn to speak Russian" before coming to press conferences with "stars." He then ordered her to leave the hall. As she was leaving, Aroyan said, "And you should learn how to behave, star!"

According to Aroyan, she was then manhandled and threatened by two of Kirkorov's security guards. Immediately following the incident, Aroyan filed suit against the security guards and on 15 June she took the singer to court for insulting the honor and dignity of a journalist.
In the past, such cases likely would have ended at this point. The Soviet legacy of state-dominated media and weak, isolated private media would likely have hemmed in such a scandal.


Local television crews recorded Kirkorov's outburst and the tape was broadcast on Don-TV. There was a strong, negative public outcry, and the tape soon found its way to the Internet. Locals have collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition calling for Kirkorov to be declared persona non grata in Rostov-na-Donu, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 15 June, and the petition was printed in the local media and presented to the city's mayor.

In the past, such cases likely would have ended at this point. The Soviet legacy of state-dominated media and weak, isolated private media would likely have hemmed in such a scandal, unless for some reason one of the national television channels picked it up.

But "Gazeta Dona" is not a typical regional newspaper. It is part of the Provintsiya publishing house (http://www.province.ru), a leading chain of local newspapers owned by entrepreneur Boris Giller. Provintsiya publishes 30 newspapers in 29 regions of the country and also owns three private newspaper-printing plants. The "Gazeta Dona" report of the Kirkorov press conference and the ensuing outcry was published throughout the chain, sparking a budding national campaign to compel Kirkorov to apologize. Moreover, a correspondent for the Rostov-na-Donu edition of "Komsomolskaya pravda" was also allegedly assaulted by the security guards when he came to Aroyan's defense, so the national daily picked up his story as well.

On 9 June, the Chelyabinsk broadcasting company Vostochnyi ekspress announced that its journalists had reviewed the tape of the press conference and had decided to no longer cover Kirkorov or broadcast any of his music or videos. "No one, not even stars, has the right to act so boorishly with other people, especially women," Vostochnyi express General Director Yurii Vishnya told uralpolit.ru on 9 June. Chelyabinsk radio station Studio-1 has joined the boycott, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 15 June, refusing to play Kirkorov even upon request. And several hosts of programs on Chelyabinsk's Nezavisimyi television station have also signed on, according to the daily.

A journalist at "Gazeta Dona" told "Novye izvestiya" that journalists and media outlets from the Rostov Oblast cities of Azov, Taganrog, and Bataisk have joined in the boycott as well. Strana.ru on 11 June published a list of six incidents in the last three years when Kirkorov or his security guards verbally or physically assaulted journalists and fans.

Nonetheless, Aroyan told Regnum on 10 June that she was reluctant to sue Kirkorov. After the incident was publicized, Aroyan said she received threatening and obscene telephone calls at home. However, she said, a feeling of solidarity with journalists, who are "too often the victims of arbitrary behavior," prompted her to act.

Ironically, Aroyan's cause has also attracted the attention of the Rostov-na-Donu branch of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, Regnum reported. The chairman of that organization reportedly telephoned Aroyan and said the boycott fits well into the group's program against cursing and promoting public morality. He reportedly offered financial and legal assistance.

This time, Kirkorov might have cause to regret his behavior. According to uralpolit.ru on 15 June, his unofficial fan sites have been flooded with negative e-mail messages and some of them have even been inaccessible. Kirkorov's official site (http://www.kirkorov.ru) has not recognized the scandal.

In February 2001, Kirkorov was named a UN goodwill ambassador. "Show business," Kirkorov said at the time, according to lenta.ru, "is not just putting out albums and doing concerts. We artists have the possibility to appear on enormous stages and to influence our audiences. Therefore, with my new status, I will try, no matter where I am, to do everything possible so that guns are silenced and music plays."
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