Score: 34.77 // Status: Very difficult

164 - Russia

Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, almost all independent media outlets have been banned, blocked and/or declared “foreign agents” or “undesirable organizations”. All others are subject to military censorship.

All independent and private television channels are off the air, with the exception of cable entertainment channels. Numerous Western media outlets, such as Euronews, France 24 and the BBC, are no longer accessible in the country. Roskomnadzor, the media regulatory body, censored most independent news sites, including Meduza, the most read, and Novaïa Gazeta, the most emblematic. Those that still remain belong to people close to the Kremlin for several years, or are forced into very strict self-censorship regarding prohibited topics and terms. The situation is the same for radio stations.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Vladimir Putin appears to be increasingly isolated from the outside world, a phenomenon reinforced by the war he is waging against Ukraine. Only a very restricted circle has access to it. Parliament has definitively become a recording chamber for decisions taken by the Kremlin. The official discourse, immediately reproduced by an omnipresent propaganda machine, is mainly based on a narrative of Russian “historical grievances” and conspiracy theories.

No journalist is safe from potentially serious legal proceedings, based on repressive, ambiguously worded and often hastily approved laws. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many laws related to freedom of expression approved in previous years were changed to include figures such as defamation and the dissemination of “false information” within the scope of the Penal Code. With the war in Ukraine, this process gained new impetus: Parliament quickly adopted amendments that punish the transmission of “false information” about the Russian Army and any other Russian state body operating abroad with prison sentences. The maximum penalty for these crimes can reach 15 years in prison.

The severe sanctions imposed on Russia by Western democracies in response to the invasion of Ukraine led to a sudden rupture of the Russian economy with the European economies, to which it was closely linked, which threatens to plunge the country into a long and deep crisis.

Although the internet connection rate is very high in the country, almost two-thirds of Russians access news mainly through television, under government control, and national social networks, such as VKontakte. Subjects such as homosexuality and religious sentiments gradually became taboo in the media under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, who encouraged a certain conservatism in Russian society.

In recent years, in addition to the heavy sentences and torture suffered by some journalists, mainly at the regional level, the frequent imposition of fines and short-term detentions under various pretexts has been added to the arsenal of systematic intimidation against the media. The media are also under threat of arbitrary inclusion on the list of “foreign agents”, a status that entails heavy bureaucratic obstacles and legal risks, and on the list of “undesirable organizations”, which criminalizes any cooperation and any mention of the media. communication in question. Faced with the additional dangers faced since the start of the war in Ukraine, many journalists working for independent media outlets have opted for exile. Still, authorities maintain pressure on them through “visits” to their family and friends and even convictions in absentia.