Russia outlaws Meduza in attempt to stamp out independent news

1 month ago

Russia has declared the news outlet Meduza an “undesirable organisation”, in effect outlawing one of the country’s best-known sources of independent reporting on the Kremlin and war in Ukraine.

Meduza, founded by Russian journalists in Riga, Latvia, in 2014, was declared an undesirable organisation by the general prosecutor’s office on Thursday for “posing a threat to the foundations of the Russian Federation’s constitutional order and national security”.

The ruling is meant to obstruct the outlet’s continued reporting on Russia, by threatening its correspondents, sources and donors with fines or criminal prosecution for continuing to produce journalism from the country.

“An especially serious limitation for journalists who must speak to sources to report the news,” Meduza said in a report on Thursday, describing its work; “in [Russia], our homeland, completely prohibited.” The restrictions are so severe that even sharing links to the outlet’s reporting can be considered a crime.

In a public letter, journalists on the Russian-language outlet vowed to continue working, despite the restrictions.

“We would like to say now that we are not afraid and we do not care about the new status – but this is not so,” the letter read. “We are afraid for our readers. We are afraid for those who have been cooperating with Meduza for many years. We are afraid for our loved ones and friends.

“Nevertheless, we believe in what we are doing. We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in a democratic Russia. The stronger the pressure, the tougher we resist it.”

Meduza has already been blocked by Internet censors, being declared a “foreign agent” in 2021. That in effect stripped it of local advertisers, forcing it to adopt crowdfunding to finance its journalism.

Nonetheless, Meduza said it had grown since it had come under greater pressure. “Despite this, we continued to work. We have retained a multimillion audience inside Russia and have become the largest uncensored publication published in Russian.”

Hundreds of Russian journalists were forced to flee the country after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February. In an Orwellian twist, journalists and individuals who have called the bloody invasion a “war” have been targeted for prosecution or been closed down by the authorities.

Independent journalists spoke out in Meduza’s support on Thursday, calling Russia’s decision an attempt to silence one of its most important media outlets.

Proekt, an investigative outlet added to the list of “undesirable organisations” in 2021, said the decision was a recognition of the importance of Meduza’s work. “This status is given only to those whom the Russian authorities fear above all, and it means that their journalists have truly continued to do their work well,” the outlet wrote.

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