Stifling atmosphere for independent journalists
With draconian laws, website-blocking, Internet cuts and leading news outlets reined in or throttled out of existence, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since the big anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012. The harassment has risen to a new level since Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and immediate arrest on arrival. Journalists trying to cover Navalny-related events including demonstrations in his support are being subjected to unprecedented and sometimes violent obstruction. As the major 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. Vague and selectively laws are used to imprison journalists and bloggers. The Kremlin seems determined to control the Internet, a goal referred to as the “sovereign Internet”. Journalists are now being branded as “foreign agents,” a defamatory label already applied to some media outlets and leading media defence NGOs. Journalists covering the big protests taking place in the far-east city of Khabarovsk since the summer of 2020 are often arrested and given huge arbitrary fines to make them stop. Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and Chechnya have meanwhile become “black holes” from which little news and information emerges. Two other republics in the Russian Caucasus, Dagestan and Ingushetia, are going the same way. Murders and physical attacks against journalists continue to go unpunished – even if campaigns can achieve victories in the face of absurd accusations by the authorities, as in the case of Ivan Golunov, an investigative journalist released in June 2019 after being arrested on a trumped-up drug trafficking charge.
149 in 2020
48.92 in 2020