Pressure on Russian Media

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Surviving a repressive environment – for how long?

Pressure on Russia’s independent media and international outlets has forced several of them to close or move operations outside the country. Journalists have been ordered to use only official statements and to avoid the words “attack” and “invasion.”

The Russian Constitution explicitly bans state censorship , but  after Russia began its “military operation” in Ukraine and subsequently passed censorship legislation, several sites and media outlets have been blocked, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Current Time TV, Voice of America, TV Rain,  Echo of Moscow radio, online news websites Znak.com, The Village, Meduza, The New Times, Taiga.info, Deutsche Welle and ТV 2.

After Russia’s move to bring back censorship, Nobel laureate and human rights activist Dmitry Muratov, Editor-in-Chief of Novaya Gazeta, said the newspaper would be removing content on Ukraine (but will continue to report on the consequences Russia is facing), due to legislation setting jail time of up to 15 years and fines for “fake news” about Russia’s army. Its readers spoke in favour of continuing work under conditions of military censorship, said Muratov.

Voice of America reports that the front cover of the March 11 issue of NG shows ballet dancers silhouetted in front of a mushroom cloud, with the words: “A copy of Novaya, created in accordance with all the rules of Russia’s amended criminal code.” The cover references a ratcheting of nuclear tensions, a performance of Swan Lake broadcast continually on Russian state TV during an attempted KGB coup in 1991, and the newly amended media law that carries hefty penalties for “false news” on the war in Ukraine.

Apparently, Novaya Gazeta’s journalists are used to working under pressure. The media outlet’s staff have been threatened, harassed, even killed for their reporting.

NG journalist Nadezhda Prusenkova said in all almost 30 media outlets were affected. “Journalism has been lost in Russia — it just doesn’t exist anymore. Independent journalism, at least, “ she noted. Readers supported the newspaper, asking it to “Just stay for as long as you possibly can,” no matter what the current situation was called.

Like all of them, NG received warnings from the media regulator and a letter from the Ministry of Defense that media outlets — and Novaya Gazeta especially — are publishing unchecked information and fake news. “We understand everything can end at any moment, not even in the coming days, but in the coming hours and minutes, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”