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Russia outlaws Meduza news website

January 26, 2023

Meduza, a popular independent news website based outside Russia, was deemed an "undesirable" entity. Moscow has upped its media censorship since invading Ukraine last year.

Screenshot of the Russian Meduza website
Russia has deemed Meduza an 'undesirable' entity, effectively banning itImage: https://meduza.io/

Russian prosecutors on Thursday banned Meduza, an independent Russian-language news website, accusing it of posing a security "threat" to the country.

It marks the latest attempt by Moscow to silence critical reporting of its war in Ukraine.

The Latvia-based website was deemed an "undesirable" entity inside Russia, which effectively outlaws it in the country.

Professor of Russian Studies speaks to DW

What does the declaration mean?

"It has been established that its activities pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and the security of the Russian Federation," prosecutors said of Meduza in a statement.

Set up in 2014, the website's Latvian location was an effort to circumvent Russian censorship.

The "undesirable" entities law was passed in 2015. It goes hand in hand with another restrictive measure, which forces any organizations that receive foreign funding to identify themselves as "foreign agents."

In 2021, Moscow branded Meduza a "foreign agent." But declaring it an "undesirable" entity takes things one step further, as any Russians who maintain ties with the website can now be subject to fines or even prison terms of up to six years. This could include sources the news site speaks to in order to report the news.

Meduza, which has a wide readership in Russia, has reported extensively and often critically about the war in Ukraine.

How is Russia countering critical reporting?

Russia has further tightened its censorship of the media since its invasion of Ukraine last year, blocking several outlets inside the country, including Meduza.

Shortly after the invasion, Moscow passed a law which punishes the act of "discrediting" the armed forces or spreading "deliberately false information" about them with jail terms of up to 15 years.

On Thursday, another independent news site said its publisher, Pyotr Verzilov, had been accused of spreading false news about the army.

People hold newspapers during a rally in support of Russian journalist Ivan Golunov who was earlier released from custody.
Russia has intensified its media censorship since the invasion of Ukraine, in an effort to silence critical reporting on the warImage: Peter Kovalev/TASS/picture alliance/dpa

Verzilov, the publisher of Mediazona website, which reports on the legal system and law enforcement, was charged over social media posts about Bucha — the city near the Ukrainian capital where bodies of hundreds of civilians were discovered after Russian troops pulled out.

At the time, Russia said the deaths were staged, while many believed the victims had been executed.

Also Thursday, a human rights center named in honor of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov said Moscow city authorities had
ordered it to vacate its premises. The eviction is linked to an expansion of the foreign agents' law in December that denies state support to organizations designated as agents.

rmt/nm (AP, Reuters)