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Russia's media environment
Ranking: Unfree. Russia is ranked 150 out of 180 countries in Reporters without Borders’ 2021 world press freedom index. “With draconian laws, website-blocking, Internet cuts and leading news outlets reined in or throttled out of existence, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since the big anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012. The harassment has risen to a new level since Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and immediate arrest on arrival. Journalists trying to cover Navalny-related events including demonstrations in his support are being subjected to unprecedented and sometimes violent obstruction. As the major TV channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse, or just try to maintain quality journalism. Vague and selectively laws are used to imprison journalists and bloggers. The Kremlin seems determined to control the Internet, a goal referred to as the ‘sovereign Internet.’ Journalists are now being branded as ‘foreign agents,’ a defamatory label already applied to some media outlets and leading media defence NGOs. Journalists covering the big protests taking place in the far-east city of Khabarovsk since the summer of 2020 are often arrested and given huge arbitrary fines to make them stop. Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and Chechnya have meanwhile become ‘black holes’ from which little news and information emerges. Two other republics in the Russian Caucasus, Dagestan and Ingushetia, are going the same way. Murders and physical attacks against journalists continue to go unpunished–even if campaigns can achieve victories in the face of absurd accusations by the authorities, as in the case of Ivan Golunov, an investigative journalist released in June 2019 after being arrested on a trumped-up drug trafficking charge.”
UPDATE: Following Russia’ invasion of Ukraine in February 2021, the State Duma passed a law making it a major crime to publish what the Kremlin deems “fake” news about the country’s military. Violators face fifteen years in prison. This includes references to the invasion that call it an invasion, as opposed to a “special military operation.” The law is part of a sweeping crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia, and has obliterated any remaining vestiges of a free or critical press. Journalists who might once have been prepared to report the truth under the threat of censorship or mild penalties will be far less prepared to spend most of their lives incarcerated. Media houses known for their independence from the Kremlin were shut down days after the invasion began. Western news organizations such as the BBC, the New York Times, and Bloomberg News have suspended or scaled back their operations in Russia. Social media sites such as Facebook have been banned. Russia’s press freedom climate is now one of the world’s most unfree. For this reason, nothing you read in the Russian media should be taken to be true. We publish these items so that you gain a better understanding of the official Kremlin narrative and have a sense of what Russians are being told and might believe. Younger and more digitally savvy Russians understand how to use anonymizing browsers to access the free Internet; older Russians are about as likely to know how to do this as your parents are.
Note: We have used the word “LABELED” to indicate that the columnist has been legally designated a “foreign agent.”
The following items have been machine-translated from the Russian by Google Translate. The editors can’t guarantee that the translation is faithful; but overall, Google’s translations are now shockingly accurate.
You may occasionally see discrepancies between Google’s translation and ours. This will either be because we’ve lightly edited the text to make it read more naturally in English or because a Russian speaker has written to us to alert us to a mistranslation.
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Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036
Founded by the chess champion and Putin critic Garry Kasparov, Kasparov.Ru is a news site devoted to political events, corruption and street protests in Russia and its regions. Because it is published outside of Russia, it is not subject to censorship. It carries analysis, reports, and reviews from a wide network of prominent Russian opposition figures. The site has been blocked in Russia for years.
A national daily and one of Russia’s oldest and most influential newspapers. Owned by Kremlin crony Alisher Usmanov. Toes the Kremlin line.
Founded by the Komsomol, the youth wing of the Communist Party, in 1925. Now populist, pro-Kremlin, and sensationalist. Owned by oil and engineering magnate Grigory Beryozkin.
TASS is Russia’s leading state news agency and one of the largest online media outlets in Russia. It receives an average of 27 million visitors per month.
The last major independent print newspaper, known for courageous and critical coverage of Russian politics and culture. The newspaper’s staff own 76 percent of its shares; Alexander Lebedev, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard in the UK, owns 14 percent; and Mikhail Gorbachev owns 10 percent. Working there is a death sentence: Seven of its journalists, including Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya and Anastasia Baburova, have been murdered since 2000. In 2021, editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for safeguarding freedom of expression.
Formerly an award-winning state-owned news agency, RIA was liquidated by Vladimir Putin in December 2013 and replaced by a new organization led by far-right pro-Kremlin television host Dmitry Kiselyov.
A joint venture among Dow Jones, the Financial Times, and Finnish media group Sanoma. Read by Russia’s business and financial elite; known as editorially independent. Good especially for regional coverage, with local editions published in St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, and Kazan.
Launched in Moscow in 2010 by entrepreneurs Sergey Poydo, Alexei Amyotov and Vasily Esmanov; read by young urbanites and hipsters, with a forum for users, blogs, and city guide. Mostly treats local cultural news.
Launched by “political technologist” Konstantin Rykov, an unabashed Kremlin mouthpiece.
In a situation where the United States does not have enough political and diplomatic arguments for a civilized discussion with Moscow, anything can be expected from them.
One of the most popular Russian news sites. Owned by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alexander Mamut. In 2014, he replaced the editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, with the pro-Kremlin Alexei Goreslavsky and fired 39 out of 84 journalists working there. The employees issued a statement protesting the move, saying that the point of it was to put the newspaper under the Kremlin’s direct control and turn the site into a propaganda tool.
Mediazona is a Russian independent media outlet founded by Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Its editor-in-chief is Russian political journalist Sergey Smirnov.
Vot Tak Tv
Vot Tak is an independent media project created in 2020 by journalists from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Every day we tell you news from all over the world, but first of all, from the regions of Russia and the post-Soviet space.