How Russian authorities attack independent news media

How Russian authorities attack independent news media

Harassment of independent Russian media is increasing. Most recently Russian news site Open Media announced it is closing down after the communications authority blocked its website for most users and listed the site as engaging in “extremist activity”. A number of other news outlets have this summer been attacked in what obviously is an attempt to limit access to unwanted news information.

Investigative media outlet Proekt was in July outlawed. It has published embarrassing information about the Russian president Vladimir Putin and other high ranking persons. State media informed that authorities had listed Proekt as “undesirable organization” which means that journalists working for the outlet risk being taken to court.

Russian news website VTimes recently closed down after the authorities decided it belongs to the category “foreign agent” used to crack down on unwanted media. Media labelled as “foreign agent” has to publish a 24 word disclaimer saying that the publication is fulfilling the function of a foreign agent.

The Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement said Russian authorities should remove all media organizations and journalists from the country’s register of foreign agents. According to Russian law, media outlets and individuals who receive overseas funding are required to label their publications and social media postings as by “foreign agents,” and to provide the government with detailed reports on their finances and activities.

Also websites Meduza and The Insider, both based in Latvia, have recently  been categorized as “foreign agent”. Meduza was founded by Russian journalists who found the media climate in Russia too hostile and moved to Latvia from where they publish news including with the help of journalists based in Russia.

The Insider outlet’s editor-in-chief Roman Dobrokhotov’s Moscow home was searched by police and Dobrokhotov and his parents questioned by the police. The police confiscated his cell phones, laptop, and tablets, as well as his passports.

The Open Media, attacked by the authorities just days ago, was founded by former oil tycoon and now Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The outlet said on its Telegram channel that it had not been informed by the authorities’ decision to ban the site. It said it had just one day earlier had received several letters  asking it to remove content from its site that was against the law, without an indication of the content in question.

“Together with our investor, we have decided to stop our work because the risks are too high for the project team members,” Open Media said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the authorities do not need media projects with a critical view on what is going on in the country. The more critical a project is, the shorter its lifespan. But at least we have tried.”

In July, authorities labelled some journalists from the Open Media as “foreign agents”.


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