This is the latest step in the campaign launched by RSF to accompany the World Cup. It began with the installation of a fake football pitch in Paris that has life-size photos of journalists currently detained in Russia.
The sponsors’ slogans are well known. They include Coca-Cola’s “Taste the feeling,” McDonalds’ “Lovin’ it” and Hyundai’s “New thinking, new possibilities.” RSF’s adaptations include “In Russia, journalists can’t taste the feeling of freedom” and “In Russia, journalists can’t lovin’ it.’
Using the adapted slogans, RSF is posting messages linked to the sponsors’ social network accounts urging them not to let the image of their brands be sullied by abusive treatment of journalists in Russia.
“We remind the World Cup’s sponsors that they could be held to account,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “By helping to finance an international sports event in a country whose government silences independent journalists and wields ever greater control over the media, they are not just getting a nice space for their ads, they are also taking a great risk with their image.
“They have a duty to not let themselves, even passively, become accomplices to the suppression of media freedom in World Cup host countries and instead to use the pressure available to them by conditioning their funding on respect for journalistic plurality, independence and freedom.”
More journalists held now than at any time since 1991
What with draconian laws and website blocking, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012. Leading independent news outlets have either been brought under control or throttled out of existence. As 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.
No fewer than six journalists are currently detained in connection with their reporting, a figure that is unprecedented since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. The leading human rights NGOs have been declared “foreign agents.” Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and Chechnya are black holes from which no news emerges. And impunity is still the rule for those who physically attack or murder journalists.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.