In my case, the end of media freedom in Russia began with an army of trolls who invaded our website, Grani.ru. Then the abuses became less virtual. Our reporters were systematically arrested and harassed by the police during demonstrations.
Then it was the turn of our worst enemies, the grotesque but powerful officials of Roskomnadzor, the media control agency. Its work, paid for by our taxes, is to prevent Russians from freely reading what they want.
Roskomnadzor wanted us to remove the Pussy Riot icon, a report about a protest initiative in Siberia, or even the photo of a Charlie Hebdo cover, from our website. Authorities finally blocked the entire site and hundreds of our mirror sites.
We see our colleagues submitting to censorship and self-censorship. For example, even the boldest no longer dare to post the title of a banned poem in support of Ukraine or mention the “Putin, Butcher of Beslan” slogan used by the mothers of children massacred in 2004. The word “annexation” in reference to Crimea is also banned. Some colleagues even remove our video of an anti-war demonstration from their page along with their links to our site.
The repression is now in full swing using both judicial and extra-judicial means. The aim of the authorities is to stigmatize and marginalize dissidents and to contaminate the arena of debate. It is a “hybrid” war, like all the wars waged by the men of the KGB.
In Russia, freedoms have been suppressed in the name of combatting terrorism and “extremism”, which has become synonymous with any dissidence. The pillars of the western world are now proving too fragile in the face of this toxic and effective “Putinian” rhetoric. The worldwide offensive against democracy is turning us all into activists, whether we like it or not. Freedom of expression is at the heart of this battle.