Russians rally against government pressure on independent media
MOSCOW – Several dozen Russians gathered in central Moscow on Saturday to protest against the Russian authorities’ recent crackdown on independent media.
The small rally was organized by several opposition candidates in the September 19 parliamentary elections in Russia and officially billed as a meeting between candidates and voters to avoid detentions and accusations of staging an unauthorized rally .
In their speeches, the candidates condemned the recent designation of several independent media, including the main Russian independent television channel Dozhd and the popular news site Meduza, as “foreign agents”. The label carries strong pejorative connotations that may discredit the recipient and involve additional government scrutiny.
“Our authorities want to completely destroy the media sphere. Labeling Dozhd, Meduza and other media now as “foreign agents” is a step towards establishing a dictatorship described by Orwell, whose main slogan is: “Ignorance is power” said activist Nikolai Kavkazsky, candidate for parliament. on the Yabloko Liberal Party ticket.
Independent media, journalists, opposition supporters and human rights activists in Russia came under increased pressure ahead of the September 19 vote, which is widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts. to consolidate his reign before the next presidential election in 2024.
The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to stay in power until 2036.
In recent months, the government has designated a number of independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” and raided the homes of several prominent reporters. The publisher of a media outlet that published investigative reports exposing allegations of corruption and abuse by senior Russian officials and tycoons close to Putin has been banned as an “unwanted” organization.
Two other news outlets shut down after authorities accused them of links to “undesirable” organizations.
The Kremlin has dismissed accusations that it is suffocating the free press and insisted that the designation “foreign agent” does not prevent outlets from functioning.
The crackdown on independent media sparked protests in Moscow. Two weeks ago, 12 journalists were briefly detained after picketing the Russian Federal Security Service to protest the “foreign agents” law.
No detention was reported at the rally on Saturday.