Freedom of the press in Russia: all “agents” and “spies”

Since the attack on Ukraine, Russia has massively intimidated journalists. Our author asks herself the question every day: go or stay?

The accused sits in a glass case in front of the court

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich at a hearing April 18 Photo: Sergei Bobylev/ITAR-TASS/imago

MOSCOW taz | Russia coverage is often court case coverage. A man in judge’s robes reads the complaint as if someone were after him. In the meantime, the accused runs his little rounds in the so-called aquarium, a glass cage, as if he were an injured animal in the zoo. Evan Gershkovich has seen a few such trials.

The American came to Moscow five years ago as a reporter. His parents had once left the Soviet Union, but still raised their two children on the American east coast with Russian books. The 31-year-old wanted to understand Russia. He was often on the road, writing about protests at landfill sites, about languages ​​that are dying out in the huge country, and yes, also about a number of court cases by people who think differently.

In April, Evan Gershkovich himself stalked a Moscow court aquarium like an injured animal. The Russian state accuses the correspondent of the Wall Street Journal “espionage,” a charge that could result in 20 years in prison.

20 years in prison because the journalist worked in a country that is at war and does not want to officially call it that. The Gershkovich case hits the heart of all Western correspondents living and working in Moscow. As so often since February 24, 2022, the question has arisen: “Leave or stay?” I have been writing from and about Russia for more than five years. It is my second stay as a correspondent in Moscow. I too ask myself this question every day.

People keep silent out of fear

Can I continue to work here and live with my family? Am I endangering our child? Am I putting the person I am talking to even more at risk? Can I bear my own fears and guilt when I see the child frozen in a seat at the airport, witnessing the parents being held by border guards – because the intelligence service wants to ask “additional questions”? How do I, often struggling with emotions like sadness, anger, helplessness, support the child when it loses dozens of friends in one fell swoop?

More and more areas are becoming inaccessible – because the state blocks them for journalists and because many people remain silent out of fear. And yet: the nuances of life, the mood in society, the complaints, the dissatisfaction, the smallest changes, they only become apparent in the country itself. For all Western journalists, staying in Russia means a kind of “driving on sight”.

Home without freedom or freedom without home

In the Press Freedom Index published annually by Reporters Without Borders, Russia ranks 155th out of 180, almost level with countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Russian state has meanwhile declared 61 Russian media and 129 Russian journalists as “foreign agents”.

Almost 320 independent Russian media outlets are blocked in the country and can only be read via VPN access, which routes the information through an encrypted virtual tunnel. But Russian authorities are now also used to jamming numerous VPN tunnels.

“The state’s dirty tricks are not diminishing. And yet I think it is important to be here, in a place where fundamental things are happening, for the auditorium that is here,” says Russian journalist Vasily Polonsky, who continues to report from Moscow.

Polonsky once worked for the independent TV station Dozhd. Doschd is now stationed in Europe, its website is blocked in Russia, and a number of Doschd journalists have been declared “foreign agents”. Later he was for Novaya Gazeta in action. The newspaper has long lost its media registration in Russia. Polonski is now reporting for its European branch, despite all the risks.

Also Dmitri Muratov, Nobel Peace Prize winner and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, knows how difficult it is for all independent Russian journalists to decide whether to stay in Russia or report from abroad. “Home without freedom or freedom without home – that’s a dilemma.”

#Freedom #press #Russia #agents #spies
More From Shayari.Page

Leave a Comment