RSF launches campaign against Russia’s lack of free media

Photo: Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Photo from the RSF campaign material


By Luca Arfini
Reporters Without Borders uses the 2018 FIFA World Cup to raise awareness about Russia's tight grip on media freedom.

This Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched a campaign to shed a light on the lack of media freedom in Russia and to point out how Russian independent journalists are threatened by the Kremlin. Indeed, for RSF, Russia’s tight grip on free press will keep on existing even during this year's World Cup.

The campaign is supported by the use of a poster containing photos of seven journalists currently imprisoned in Russia. Moreover, RSF is sharing stickers, similar to the official Panini ones, of those journalists to better stimulate public interest.

Their names are Alexander Sokolov, Igor Rudnikov, Zhalaudi Geriyev, Alexander Tolmachev, Alexei Kungurov, Alexei Nazimov, Alexander Valov. According to RSF, all these journalists have been unfairly detained in jails because of their investigations and critique of the Russian public authorities.

Freedom of Press in Russia
Russia came in 148th out of 180 states in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

“Between draconian laws and website blocking, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012. Leading independent news outlets have either been brought under control or throttled out of existence,” said the RSF Press Freedom report about Russia.

According to RSF there have never been so many detentions of journalists and bloggers since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 as there are today. Not only does the Russian government control the leading media, but the RSF also finds that increasingly repressive laws, written in vague terms, allow the Kremlin to apply those rules in an arbitrary way.

Furthermore, this November, a legislation allowing Russia to label media outlets as ‘foreign agents’ has been signed by Putin. This means that media organisations located in Russia that receive financial support from abroad can be classified as ‘foreign agents’. The effect of this designation on news outlets is not quite clear yet.

The right of freedom of expression, including the freedom of press, is contained in the article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted 70 years ago by the General Assembly of the United Nations, on the 10th December 1948.

This right is also present in Russian constitution, however, according to a recent report conducted by Freedom House, it is far from guaranteed and protected within the state. Freedom House it is an independent organisation aiming to the expand freedom and democracy around the world.

“Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, vague laws on extremism grant the authorities great discretion to crack down on any speech, organization, or activity that lacks official support," the Freedom in the World Report says.

Putin´s answer to the critiques
President Vladimir Putin recently commented on the state of media freedom in Russia during an interview with the Austrian Journalist Armin Wolf.

“Our mass media is free. People are free to speak out and make a name for themselves as representatives of many political movements do,” Putin said in the interview.

The interview has been criticized by Russian news media, like in Tsargrad, who found that Wolf interrupted Putin several times thus violating ‘the elementary ethics of communication’.

“Let me finish, for God’s sake,” Putin exclaims during the interview.

More information

Find more information regarding the RSF campaign here.
Find the Freedom House report here.
Find the video of the interview between Putin and Wolf here.

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