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Russia outlaws Meduza in attempt to stamp out independent news | Press freedom

Russia has declared the Meduza news agency an “undesirable organization,” effectively outlawing one of the country’s best-known independent sources of information about the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine.

Meduza, founded by Russian journalists in Riga, Latvia, in 2014, was declared undesirable by the Prosecutor General’s Office on Thursday for “posing a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and national security of the Russian Federation.”

The ruling aims to prevent the publication from continuing to report on Russia by threatening its correspondents, sources and donors with fines or criminal prosecution for continuing to produce journalistic material from the country.

“A particularly severe constraint is for journalists who must communicate with sources in order to report news,” Meduza said in a report on Thursday. Meduza described its work as “in [Russia], our homeland, are completely prohibited.” The restrictions are so severe that even disseminating links to the publication’s reports can be considered a crime.

In a public letter, the journalists of the Russian-language edition promised to continue their work despite the restrictions.

“We would like to say now that we are not afraid and do not care about the new status – but this is not so,” the letter says. “We are afraid for our readers. We fear for those who have been cooperating with Meduza for many years. We fear for our loved ones and friends.

“However, we believe in what we do. We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in a democratic Russia. The stronger the pressure, the harder we resist it.”

Meduza has already been blocked by internet censors, and in 2021 was declared a “foreign agent”. This effectively deprived her of local advertisers, forcing her to use crowdfunding to fund her journalism.

However, according to Meduza, she grew up because she came under more pressure. “Despite this, we continued to work. We have retained a multi-million audience within Russia and have become the largest obscene publication published in Russian.”

Hundreds of Russian journalists were forced to leave the country after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last February. In the Orwellian scenario, journalists and individuals who called the bloody invasion a “war” were prosecuted or shut down by the authorities.

On Thursday, independent journalists came out in support of Meduza, calling Russia’s decision an attempt to silence one of its most important outlets.

Listed as an “undesirable organization” in 2021, the research publication The Project said the decision was a recognition of the importance of Meduza’s work. “This status is given only to those whom the Russian authorities fear the most, and this means that their journalists really continue to do their job well,” the newspaper writes.

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