Russia censors Novaya Gazeta at Chechen leader’s behest

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Russian media control agency Roskomnadzor’s "unacceptable" censorship of an article in the leading Moscow investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta about Chechnya’s chaotic and authoritarian management of the coronavirus crisis.

It seems that the Russian authorities will stop at nothing to support Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled the autonomous southwestern republic of Chechnya with an iron hand for years and is on RSF’s list of Predators of Press Freedom.

Roskomnadzor ordered Novaya Gazeta to delete the article from its website on 15 April on the grounds that it contained "inaccurate" information and could prove dangerous – without saying who might be endangered.

The order came two days after the Chechen strongman condemned the article in a video broadcast live on his Instagram account and distributed via Telegram, calling on the Federal Security Service (FSB) to put a stop to the newspaper’s criticism. Asked yesterday about Kadyrov’s threats, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said he saw "nothing unusual."

An archived version of the article is still accessible. Published on 12 April, it was written by Elena Milashina, a Novaya Gazeta reporter who was the target of a physical attack in the lobby of her hotel during a visit to Grozny, the Chechen capital, in February. The attack remains unpunished.

"These new threats and restrictions on Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that has been repeatedly targeted by the Chechen authorities, are unacceptable," said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. "Russia is required by its international obligations to guarantee journalists’ safety. We call on the Russian authorities to firmly condemn these dangerous comments and to end the censorship that is helping to turn Chechnya into an ‘information black hole’."

Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 20.04.2020