Independent Russian journalists fear “anything can happen”

As the conflict in Ukraine enters its second year, Russian journalists critical of the Kremlin know that anything can happen to them. 

Exiled to Latvia since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian independent media have made it their mission to provide independent information to millions of their compatriots. Credit: Gints Ivuskans / AFP

The war has led to an intensified clampdown on Russian media, the rise of propaganda and disinformation and the shutting down of independent Russian news outlets. Hundreds of journalists have left the country and relocated to the Baltic states, other Eastern and Central European countries, Germany and the South Caucasus.

Four major Russian media outlets are now working in exile: TV Dozhd, Echo (radio), and Novaya Gazeta-Europа, as well as more than two dozen independent media , including investigative and regional media. Most of these media are blocked in Russia.

Moreover, Meduza, The Insider, Vazhnie istorii and Projekt have been labelled  "undesirable organisations" and any quotation or link to these sites may result in criminal prosecution.

The IFJ/EFJ have been active in supporting journalists in exile.

The Federations remain in regular contact with their affiliate the Journalists and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU), an independent representative organisation of Russian journalists and media workers.

On 14 September 2022, the  Moscow City Court dissolved JMWU and the union is now trying to register in France with the support of the French union SNJ-CGT to resume its activities but is facing delays caused by technical formalities.

The Russian censorship law adopted after the invasion of Ukraine criminalises “false information” about the country’s armed forces, and new and even more restrictive provisions have entered into force to control the narrative.

Independent journalists remaining in Russia face daily censorship challenges. Some have decided to avoid covering certain topics. Others have stepped down from their profession. “A well known journalist has left his job so as not to be forced to cover the war from Russia. He now works as a delivery man”, JMWU International Secretary Andrei Jvirblis says. 

The IFJ has supported a dozen journalists via its regular Safety Fund, providing subsistence and travel support to journalists blocked in Istanbul or Tbilissi and Russia's neighboring countries.  “All requests came from journalists working for independent media who could no longer work in Russia following the new law on “Fake news”, said Ernest Sagaga, the Head of IFJ’s Safety Department. 

Beyond the subsistence and travel support, “one of the most pressing needs for colleagues in exile is to get  the IFJ International Press Card”, Andrei Jvirblis recalls. “Colleagues are also asking for visas but requirements for visas are constantly changing. Solidarity is very important. Many of our colleagues suddenly found themselves in a very difficult and precarious situation when, after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, they were forced to leave the country in a hurry. The support of the IFJ Safety Fund was very valuable to them."

The federations and their members have written to chancelleries to speed up visa processes in Estonia, Luxembourg and France.

How to help independent Russian journalists in exile? “ While our solidarity fund dedicated to Ukraine is not aimed to support those journalists, our regular Safety Fund continues to support journalists in need and we will consider demands for help from Russian journalists at risk with all our care“, said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.

The IFJ and EFJ are also supporting a Council of Europe initiative to create a self-help network of Russian media and journalists in exile in Europe. 

Donate to the IFJ safety fund to support Russian journalists in exile.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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