“I will disappear from social networks for a while”, writes one. “I will remain silent for the moment on Twitter”, announces another. The dozens of foreign correspondents based in Moscow are now afraid of being arrested and sentenced to heavy prison terms for simply doing their job of reporting on the situation in Russia. Since the adoption on March 4 by the Duma, the Russian Parliament, of a new law heavily penalizing any “false information” after the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, many Russian and international media decided to suspend their journalistic activities in the country.
Sunday March 6, the information site Mediazone, one of the last independent voices in Russia, said it was blocked by authorities because of its coverage of the invasion in Ukraine. The iconic radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) also announced its dissolution, while the independent television channel Dojd suspended its activity. Many experts believe that no independent Russian media will be able to survive in the country, not even the highly respected newspaper Novaïa Gazetawhose editor received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.
→ THE FACTS. New turn of the screw of Moscow against the freedom to inform
“Since this weekend, no one knows what we have the right to publish or broadcast in the eyes of the Russian authorities”, entrusts on encrypted messaging an Asian journalist, based in Moscow for several years. The Kremlin again defended on Sunday March 6 the “firmness” of its new law, considering that Russia was the target of a “information warfare” fueled by Western media. But the red line set by the authorities remains vague, with any information that could be considered “discrediting” the country and its army. “The watchword for the moment with us is not to take any risks and not to broadcast anything from Russia”, summarizes this correspondent who would even consider leaving the country.
BBC in Russian is partially blocked
Believing that Moscow aims to “criminalize independent journalism”BBC director-general Tim Davie ruled that “this leaves no choice but to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists to ensure their safety.” Already in Moscow’s crosshairs, the BBC’s Russian-language news site (whose audiences tripled in one year) had been partially blocked by media regulator Roskomnadzor. A form of retaliation for the ban on broadcasting in Great Britain the programs of the Russian channels RT and Sputnik.
→ EXPLANATION. Russia Today, the other subject of Russian-European tension
In the same spirit, the German international radio-television Deutsche Welle (DW) had been banned in Russia and its reporters forced to stop working. Access to its Russian-language site, which was still functioning, was “limited before the weekend by the Russian media regulator”. On the other hand, the public group Radio France indicated that it was waiting for a legal expertise to decide whether or not to suspend the correspondence of its journalists in Russia. The American news channel CNN, like CBC/Radio-Canada and the Bloomberg agency, also announced that it was suspending the broadcasting of news in Russia, “time to assess the situation”.
Foreign media await to assess limits of censorship
Thus, for several days, the Russian strategy of intimidation with regard to foreign media and journalists has considerably reduced the flow of military information from Moscow. The agencies still dare to speak of the multiplication of arrests of anti-war demonstrators in Russia. Very factual, the agencies quote the Russian NGO OVD-Info which evokes more than a thousand protesters this Sunday March 6 and 10,000 arrests since February 24. But we feel a serious shift in the purely military information coming from Moscow.
Pending a more precise assessment of the limits of the new Russian censorship, the media and agencies, such as the Italian RAI, will provide information on the situation in Russia “based on numerous sources of journalists working in neighboring countries and in central newsrooms in Italy”. As in Ukraine, the information war launched by Vladimir Putin is likely to last a long time.
Christophe Deloire, Director General of Reporters Without Borders: “The characteristic of war criminals is to intimate silence”
“Vladimir Putin has been working for twenty years to build a leaden screed on the Russian media. There remained a few pockets of resistance, independent media with which he decided to put an end to by adopting on Friday March 4 an amendment which provides for up to fifteen years in prison in the event of the dissemination of information aimed at “to discredit” the Russian armed forces.
Vladimir Putin completes this mass muzzling by attacking Facebook and Twitter. So far, foreign platforms have allowed him to broadcast his propaganda, but since Facebook suspended the accounts of state media RT and Sputnik earlier this week, he no longer sees any use for them.
The characteristic of war criminals is to intimidate silence, hence the attempts at intimidation and the information war. »