Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a police raid on Dozhd TV, Russia’s only independent national TV broadcaster, as it was providing live coverage of the latest in a series of protests in Moscow on 27 July. The raid was intended to intimidate the TV channel ahead of the next protests, RSF said.
The official grounds for the raid was to give Dozhd TV editor-in-chief Alexandra Perepelova a summons to appear before an official enquiry into the protests but it forced the TV channel to interrupt its coverage for several minutes. It was then the target of a cyber-attack.
Perepelova testified that evening to the enquiry being held into the unauthorized demonstrations that have been taking place since the start of July to demand free City Hall elections in Moscow. She was questioned about her and her staff’s activities as journalists.
Despite the historic scale of the protests, the police violence and record number of arrests in the centre of the capital, Dozhd TV was the only national TV channel to provide live coverage of the latest protest. The other channels ignored the subject all day, choosing instead, for example, to cover President Vladimir Putin’s Baltic Sea dive in a bathyscaphe or the various activities available to Muscovites on what was a fine summer’s day.
“We firmly condemn this attempt to intimidate Dozhd TV,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Not content with the deafening silence about the leading political event of the moment on the national TV channels, the authorities are trying to pressure the only channel that has tried to do its duty to report the news. We fully support our Dozhd TV colleagues in the face of these crude ploys.”
The police also raided opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s YouTube channel studio on 27 July, interrupting the live coverage of the demonstration that it was providing to more than 1 million viewers.
According to the leading news site OVD-Info, the police arrested 1,373 people, including 24 journalists, during the demonstration, which was called to protest a decision by the authorities to disqualify 27 opposition candidates for the Moscow elections. Many demonstrators, including at least nine journalists, were injured. The opposition has called for another protest on 3 August.
Dozhd TV’s creation in 2010 secured a small independent corner in television landscape closely controlled by the authorities. But it has been subjected to repeated harassment with the aim of limiting its influence: it was dropped by most satellite TV services in 2014, it was deprived of advertisers for a while and it was even evicted from its premises.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.