Roman Badanin runs The Project, an independent Russian media outlet specializing in investigative reporting. The project digs where relatively few Russian journalists dare to go, in search of the truth about things, from COVID in parts of Russia to details of the positions and properties of alleged secret members of the Russian president’s second family .
Doing this kind of work in Russia risks causing real problems for journalists. And that scares advertisers away. The project has a GoFundMe page to make ends meet. And they live with a lot of anxiety. Badanin believes it is only a matter of time before their numbers are on the rise with media watchdogs in Russia.
“I would say this is the most dramatic period in terms of number of attacks [on press], the number of draconian laws passed by the Russian authorities and the situation is worsening at a very rapid rate, “Badanin told Fox News.
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In fact, as President Biden met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Geneva, the Moscow parliament passed legislation to further restrict social media in Russia. And Badanin points to the growing use of the dreaded “foreign agent” designation for media organizations, forcing them to effectively label all of their content with the warning that it was “created by a foreign media outlet or a Russian legal entity. performing the functions of a foreign agent. ”
The Kremlin now calls Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE / RL), funded by the United States, a foreign agent, but the media has resisted giving in to Moscow on the matter. As a result, RFE / RL has been fined millions of dollars and is under tremendous pressure, which could lead to its operations in Russia shutting down after being invited by the late President Boris Yeltsin.
Meduza, one of Russia’s most popular news sites, already based abroad, in Latvia, was also awarded the label. It means losing advertisers and access. And even the suggestion that the news was concocted by agents turns off many consumers. It can be a slow death.
The European Court of Human Rights has given priority to the RFE / RL case challenging the status of “foreign agent”.
“The clear intention of the Kremlin’s campaign against RFE / RL and other independent media in Russia is to force these media either to give up freedom of expression and the integrity of journalists or to abandon the profession,” he said. said RFE / RL President Jamie Fly.
Biden said in his post-summit press conference that he raised the issue with Putin in the context of the larger human rights debate.
“I also spoke about the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to function and the importance of a free press and freedom of expression.
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Badanin somehow wishes Biden had beaten the drums harder, was even more assertive on the matter.
He said West has generally supported Russian media, especially through NGOs, and that includes donations from individuals.
“I really appreciate this. Almost all independent Russian media organizations are currently registered abroad in one or another of the western countries, from Lithuania to the United States and I know that many foreign organizations aim to nonprofit helps Russian journalists. “
Why is this crackdown taking place now when Putin appears to be in power safely until 2036?
Because there will be a kind of referendum on his power and his party in September in the form of legislative elections in September.
“These elections are the real challenge for the Russian authorities because of the rating of United Russia, which is the leading party in Russia. It is quite low. In my opinion [the increasing crackdown on media] is aligned with the next elections, ”Badanin said, adding:“ There could be fraud. “
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And if so, much easier to discredit these reports if they are the work of foreign agents.
Meanwhile, the organizations of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny have recently been deemed “extremist” and have closed their offices.
They were promoting something called “smart voting” which involves voting for any non-United Russia candidate in the upcoming September elections.
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