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Russia blocks more news sites critical of Kremlin

August 5, 2021

Two outlets backed by the London-based Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky were blocked for users in Russia. It represents the latest crackdown on freedom of the press in Russia.

A person using a mobile phone behind a fence
Russia has fenced off access to another two media sites critical of Putin and the KremlinImage: picture-alliance/AA/S. Karacan

Russia on Wednesday blocked access to two news outlets that have been critical of the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.

Oktrytye Media and MBKh Media said their websites had become unavailable for users of most Russian internet providers.

The media organizations are backed by the London-based Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was pardoned and released from jail by Putin in December 2013 after being jailed in 2005 for fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

Both outlets said they had received no notice from Russian authorities as to why they had been blocked.

The order came from the prosecutor general's office, the AP news agency reported.

What is the state of freedom of expression in Russia?

In recent months, the Russian government has branded several media organizations and journalists as "foreign agents."

Russia: Students demand press freedom

That means they are subject to additional scrutiny from state bodies; the homes of several reporters have been raided over the past year.

Reporters without Borders says Russia has created "a stifling atmosphere for independent journalists" with "draconian laws, website-blocking, Internet cuts and leading news outlets reined in or throttled out of existence."

One outlet not affected by Wednesday's ban was designated as a "criminal organization" after it published investigative reports into alleged corruption by people close to Putin.

What is Russia doing about social media?

The move against Oktrytye Media and MBKh Media marks the latest crackdown by Moscow on the press and freedom of expression.

It came on the same day officials there blocked DeviantArt, an online artistic community, for failing to take down banned content.

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor accused DeviantArt of failing to remove pages that contained child pornography, pro-drug and pro-Nazi content.

It said the LA-based company, which is owned by Israeli web firm Wix.com, ignored its demands on several occasions.

Moscow regularly fines social media giants that refuse to comply with regulators' requests.

jf/sms (AP, AFP)