Last week, Russian authorities designated the Dozhd broadcaster as an “undesirable” organization. Anyone who works with it – and even appearing on screen as a guest constitutes working with it – could now face criminal charges. In effect, the authorities are changing their tactics against independent Russian media, which were previously universally listed as “foreign agents,” a status that imposed some restrictions but still enabled them to operate. Now the authorities are forced to ban any media that criticizes the war.
- Restrictions on “undesirable” organizations are far stricter than those on foreign agents. Any work with an undesirable organization could bring fines and repeat offenses would trigger a criminal case. Moreover, even cooperation with an “undesirable” organization based abroad can be punished as of 2021.
- Making a donation or republishing an “undesirable” organization’s material on social media could land you behind bars. In theory, punishments would apply to activity after an organization was declared “undesirable.” In reality, though, there are cases when laws have been applied retrospectively. There are examples of activists being charged for posts published before the organization in question was declared “undesirable.” Thus, if you live in Russia, it would be prudent to delete any posts referencing Dozhd’s work.
- Dozhd is not the only large independent media outlet to fall on the “undesirable” list. Earlier, Meduza, Vazhnye Istorii and Novaya Gazeta Europa were targeted with this designation. The logic behind these designations is clear. The authorities are trying to snuff out independent media that report honestly about the war and the problems Russia is facing due to its invasion of Ukraine.
- However, Dozhd is the first television channel to be placed on the list. While print and online media can conceal the identities of its sources and analysts with relative ease, it’s impossible for a TV station to do so. Dozhd will continue to broadcast, but is no longer able to accept donations from viewers in Russia.
Why the world should care
There is no doubt that by the end of the year, the list of “undesirable” organizations will encompass all the leading independent media outlets currently listed as “foreign agents.” On the other had, the undesirable label, despite its draconian restrictions, is not a death sentence. Every publication that was previously added to the list continues to operate.