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August 31, 2021 - Updated on September 6, 2021

“Taking control?” Updated RSF report on Internet censorship in Russia

A few weeks before parliamentary elections in Russia on 19 September, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is publishing a country report showing how massively the state leadership under President Vladimir Putin has restricted freedom of the press and freedom of expression in recent months.

Читать на русском / Read in Russian


At least five news sites – independent or critical of the Kremlin – have had to cease operations in Russia this year. More and more media outlets are being arbitrarily declared foreign agents, including the independent TV channel Dozhd, the news portal Meduza and several investigative sites. The expulsion of longtime BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford also shows that even foreign reporters are under threat of reprisals because of their work.

 

The new report is an update of the report "Everything under control? Internet Censorship and Surveillance in Russia," which RSF published in November 2019. The update is available online in EnglishRussian and German.

 

“We are alarmed by the gradual disappearance of independent media in Russia, which has increased sharply for online media this year,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “A free and independent press is the pillar of democracy. We urge the Russian authorities to stop this witch-hunt against journalists in order to regain their credibility as a pluralistic and democratic country.”

 

"Without independent media reporting on social reality in Russia, the election loses its meaning," Christian Mihr, Executive Director of RSF Germany, added. "If political alternatives and social problems are not allowed to be reported and discussed in public, any supposed vote only confirms the distorted perception of the rulers ­– it does not reflect the will of the people. Governments of democratic states must vehemently defend the fundamental right to freedom of expression in their future relations with Russia."

 

In the new report, RSF provides an overview of the multitude of laws passed by the Russian parliament in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic, such as the tightened laws on so-called "foreign agents" and new regulations on defamation or alleged false news. They allow the authorities to suppress any information that runs counter to the official version of current events.

 

In addition to the massive attacks against media professionals, including during demonstrations for imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, RSF describes how the Kremlin is also putting increasing pressure on social network operators. Western platforms in particular were fined millions in the first half of 2021 for failing to block content banned by the Russian media regulator. RSF calls on international platforms not to bow to the pressure and to protect freedom of expression and the privacy of their users in Russia as well.

 

Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

 

The update to the report on Internet censorship in Russia can be found in English at:

www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de/russiareport-update

 

The update to the report on Internet censorship in Russia can be found in Russian at:

www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de/doklad-update 

 

The update to the report on Internet censorship in Russia can be found in German at:

www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de/russlandbericht-update