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Pussy Riot's Dynamic Duo Launches a New Media Portal

Pussy Riot activists attend Roskilde Festival, 4 July 2014, by Jacob Crawfurd. Demotix.

Pussy Riot activists attend Roskilde Festival, 4 July 2014, by Jacob Crawfurd. Demotix.

Pussy Riot's two brightest stars, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are back with a new project. Last week, they launched a new media portal devoted to reporting on issues and events in Russia's prison system. “MediaZona” will partner with “Zona Prava,” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova's existing charity, which promotes prisoners’ rights. (Curiously, Zona Prava's website hasn't been updated since March 19, 2014.) Notable Russian journalist Sergey Smirnov will serve as editor-in-chief on the new media project. The website is already up and running, posting live updates about notable arrests, opinionated commentaries, and more detailed texts recounting people's experiences in Russian prisons

In a press release for the site, Tolokonnikova said the group's news portal is meant to compensate for Russia's mass media, which she lambasts as heavily censored and inaccurate.

Since our release from prison 6 months ago we've felt that Russian media are no longer able to cover what is going on. Because of the heavy censorship by authorities there is no space for anything in the media that criticizes Putin's policies and tracks human rights abuses by Russian courts and law enforcement.

The editorial team for MediaZona. Image from voiceproject.org.

The website plans to provide comprehensive coverage of prison-related issues in Russia.

Мы стремимся к тому, чтобы сделать более зримым всё, что происходит в Российской Тюрьме. Преследования гражданских активистов и правозащитных организаций, полицейское насилие и пытки, рабская система ФСИН, коррупция, судебное бездушие и мужество, законодательный абсурд, голуби над зоной и конвойные собаки — все это только часть тех тем, которые попадают в сферу наших интересов и которые мы собираемся освещать.

We strive to make what occurs in the Russian Prison System more visible. Persecution of civic activists and human rights organizations, police violence and torture, the slave system within Russian prisons, corruption, judicial callousness and nerve, legislative absurdity, doves flying overhead [a reference to a famous Russian prison song], and police dogs — these are only some of the topics of interest that we'll cover.

Initial reaction from the RuNet to the new site's arrival has been largely positive, with many saying it filled a niche and could be instrumental in showing the dirty underbelly of the Russian criminal system. Journalist Kirill Martynov tweeted,

I think Mediazona is a great project. It's time to stop pretending that Russia has politics without [guard] dogs and convoys.

“A view from behind bars gives the best view of how the government process works,” the website says. After being released early from prison last December, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova immediately formed Zona Prava, which provides legal, psychological, and informational support to prisoners and criminal defendants in Russia. This summer, both women filed a lawsuit against the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights, demanding compensation for their arrest, trial, and imprisonment. They are asking roughly $170,000 USD each.

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