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What Is the Future of Russia's News Media?

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Citizen Media, Economics & Business, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, RuNet Echo
The face of the Russian media. What will it be tomorrow? Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

The face of the Russian media. What will it be tomorrow? Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

The politically motivated purge of Lenta.ru is complete, wrote [1] recently the website's original creator, Anton Nosik, claiming it was the last day for the remaining editorial staff. Lenta's takeover [see GV report [2]] by a Kremlin-friendly chief editor is just one event in a “chain” of lower profile attempts to censor the RuNet.

On March 6, 2014, for example, Roscomnadzor banned [3] a Youtube video [4], a “Call to Arms” for Ukrainians, on the grounds of extremism. As a result, several Russian ISPs briefly blocked all of YouTube, and the video itself remains inaccessible [5] to Internet users in Russia. In this climate of uncertainty (especially due to the conflict in Crimea), editors are paying more attention than ever to online content and reporting. This pressure has already led several journalists to resign their jobs. And it could be just the beginning [6]: in addition to over forty people leaving Lenta.ru, five people left the news portal RussPlanet, and an editor quit Bolshoi Gorod. Egor Skovoroda, formerly of RusPlanet, wrote [7]:

В общем, да, сегодня написал заявление и уволился из “Русской планеты” (то же самое сделали Паша Никулин, Маша Климова, Митя Ткачев и Юлиана Лизер). Не хочу расписывать всякие подробности, но если коротко, то “Крым расставил все по местам.”

In general, yes, today I resigned and left RussPlanet (Pavel Nikulin, Maria Klimova, Mitya Tkachev, and Julian Leeser have left, too). I do not want to go into details, but put briefly: “Crimea [events] showed the true face of things.”

Pavel Nikulin (named above) also weighed in [8] on his VKontakte page, also citing Crimea's role in censorship trends:

Оказывается, издание чуть не закрыли после моего первого репортажа из Севастополя.

It turns out that the publication [RussPlanet] was almost closed after my first report from Sevastopol.

Nikulin's reporting from Crimea was relatively friendly to Ukraine, and he blames editorial censorship for being denied the chance to report about Crimea self-defense forces beating him up while on assignment.

Bolshoi Gorod's former editor also commented [9] on her March 12 resignation:

В устных беседах в течение последнего месяца он [Винокуров] неоднократно настаивал на моём уходе. За это время было произнесено так много аргументов, которые противоречат друг другу, что об истинной причине я могу только догадываться.

In conversations during the last month, [owner Aleksandr Vinokurov] repeatedly insisted on my leaving. During that time, so many arguments that contradict each other were expressed that I can only guess at the real reason.

Now that Moscow has formally annexed Crimea, following a controversial popular referendum, it's possible, if not extremely likely, that Russian journalists will face even greater difficulties. The profession is now caught in a vice, and many of the country's most talented reporters might soon find themselves forced out or fed up. If things continue like this for very long, the face of the Russia media could soon be changed irrevocably. It probably already has.