Kremlin pressures more Russian media to shut up

Faced with pressure from the Kremlin, the news outlet Novaya Gazeta recently suspended its operations in Russia. The newspaper’s editor, Dmitry Muratov, seen on October 7, 2021 in Moscow, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his reporting. (© Alexander Zemlianitchenko/AP Images)

Faced with pressure from the Kremlin, the news outlet Novaya Gazeta recently suspended its operations in Russia. The newspaper’s editor, Dmitry Muratov, seen on October 7, 2021 in Moscow, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his reporting. (© Alexander Zemlianitchenko/AP Images)

By Leigh Hartman

Factual and objective reporting in President Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation has long been risky. But after Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian journalists and citizens now face long prison sentences for accurately reporting or protesting the war.

Pressure from the Kremlin’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor pushed the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta to suspend operations at the end of March. Roskomnadzor had banned Novaya GazetaEditor Dmitry Muratov’s interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the threat of action under Russia’s ‘foreign agents’ law, which subjects journalists to fines, harassment and possible jail time imprisonment.

Many other Russian independent media have also suspended operations due to continued Kremlin pressure on independent media, including Meduza, Dozhd TV and Ekho Moskvy. More than 150 journalists have fled Russia since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the the wall street journal reports.

Russian authorities have also arrested more than 15,000 protesters for peacefully opposing Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war, according to OVD-Info, a human rights group that tracks political arrests.

The Kremlin’s crackdown on free speech is made possible by two laws signed into law in March that make factual reporting on war and anti-war protests punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“No journalist is immune from serious charges under draconian, vaguely worded and often hastily adopted laws,” Reporters Without Borders says on its website.

The Kremlin also blocked Facebook and Instagram and restricted access to Twitter to prevent Russian citizens from accessing information about its aggression against Ukraine. Roskomnadzor also blocked Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Russian language websites of Voice of America, BBC and Deutsche Welle in Germany.

On May 6, a Russian court ordered the arrest in absentia of Russian journalist Aleksander Nevzorov for reporting on the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine. Nevzorov, who was in Israel in March, was charged with spreading “deliberately false” information, according to Voice of America.

People gather in support of independent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, in July 2021. (© Yuliia Ovsiannikova/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Ahead of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a court in Russian-occupied Crimea sentenced Vladyslav Yesypenko, a freelance journalist for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, to six years in prison on charges widely seen as politically motivated. and a consequence for its independent reporting. Yesypenko says the authorities “want to discredit the work of independent journalists who really want to show what is really happening in Crimea.”

RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly told the Center for Strategic and International Studies on March 30 that the media has long faced restrictions in Russia, but pressure has increased due to the “Kremlin’s desire to maintain control over all public conversation” inside. Russia about its war against Ukraine. Following this pressure, RFE/RL recently suspended its operations in Moscow.

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