Despite Kremlin efforts, Russian indie media keep news flowing

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It’s not a good time to be a dissenting voice in Russia’s media landscape.

The funding for state media has tripled since the war in Ukraine began, even as laws to curtail critical journalism have proliferated. Most independent media – and the journalists who worked with them – have left Russia in recent months after being declared “foreign agents,” forbidden from reporting on the war and, in many cases, physically shut down by authorities.

Why We Wrote This

The Kremlin has been trying to silence dissenting voices in Russia’s media landscape. But despite its efforts, independent outlets are finding ways to speak to the Russian public.

But thanks to the advances and ubiquity of the internet, independent media today are able to make their voices heard in a way that was impossible during the days of the USSR. 

Some of them have established full-scale operations from a safe perch outside the country, aiming to bring alternative news and views to Russians online. Some journalists have remained in Russia but retreated to social media to express themselves, or to provide information anonymously for existing outlets.

“There are so many ways to reach people nowadays that were unimaginable in the past,” says Masha Lipman, co-editor of online journal the Russia Post. “As long as the internet exists … the émigré press now has a real foothold and can compete in the Russian information sphere.”

Moscow

Under the pressure of war, crackdown, and emigration, Russia’s media landscape looks increasingly as it did in the bygone Soviet era.

In the Cold War, that meant a consolidated national press offering the official narrative with little political diversity, and a range of alternative voices based outside the country trying various means to penetrate official obstacles to reach Russian audiences.

It’s not quite that bad yet today.

Why We Wrote This

The Kremlin has been trying to silence dissenting voices in Russia’s media landscape. But despite its efforts, independent outlets are finding ways to speak to the Russian public.

The funding for state media has indeed tripled since the war began, even as laws to curtail critical journalism have proliferated. And most independent media – and the journalists who worked with them – have left Russia in recent months after being declared “foreign agents,” forbidden from reporting on the war and, in many cases, physically shut down by authorities.

But thanks to the advances and ubiquity of the internet, independent media today are able to make their voices heard in a way that was impossible during the days of the USSR. Some of them have established full-scale operations from a safe perch outside the country, aiming to bring alternative news and views to Russians online. Quite a few journalists have remained in Russia but retreated to obscure precincts of social media to express themselves, or to provide information anonymously for existing outlets.



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