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Russia declares Dozhd independent TV channel 'undesirable'

July 25, 2023

While the channel had already been banned by Moscow, the new designation allows for the prosecution of staff and donors in Russia. The Kremlin has increasingly cracked down on "undesirable" organizations since 2015.

https://p.dw.com/p/4UNiJ
Russian Dozhd broadcast
The independent 'Dozhd' channel (TV Rain) has been broadcasting from Latvia and the Netherlands since Russia invaded UkraineImage: Imago Images

Russian prosecutors on Tuesday declared the independent TV station Dozhd to be an "undesirable" organization.

Dozhd, which means "Rain" in Russian, moved from Russia to Latvia shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. It later moved its offices to the Netherlands.

The channel had already been banned by Moscow, but the new designation means any staff or donors in Russia can be prosecuted.

The Russian prosecutor-general's office accused Dozhd of engaging in spreading extremist material and discrediting authorities.

The channel said that it would cancel Russian viewers' subscriptions due to the ban.

"We've been called 'undesirable in Russia,' but we're not: 13 million viewers in Russia in the last month confirm that," Dozhd said in a Telegram post.

"But the safety of our viewers is the most important thing for us," it said.

"That is why we're stopping the collection of donations from Russia, canceling existing subscriptions from Russians and urging you not to share links to our materials if you live in the Russian Federation — this is now unsafe."

Russia prosecutes 'undesirable' organizations

Dozhd was removed from broadcast networks in 2014 and it was labeled a "foreign agent" in 2021. That designation burdened it with bureaucratic requirements and forced it to add a disclaimer to its output.

In March 2022, Russia's communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, announced it was blocking the channel's output.

Nonetheless, Russian viewers have been able to access the channel through YouTube, which is not censored by Moscow.

Press freedom under attack in Russia

In 2015, Russia passed a new law that made membership in "undesirable" organizations a criminal offense.

The European edition of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta was also declared "undesirable" earlier this year under the same law.

Moscow has also applied the label to the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and the US-based Wild Salmon Center.

sdi/nm (AP, Reuters, AFP)