Monday, July 15, 2024

Russia labels The Moscow Times as ‘undesirable’ in response to heightened scrutiny of dissent

Russian Prosecutor General Declares The Moscow Times ‘Undesirable’ Organization amid Crackdown on Media and Opposition

The Russian prosecutor general’s office has made a bold move by declaring The Moscow Times, a popular online newspaper among Russia’s expatriate community, as an “undesirable organization.” This decision comes as part of a wider crackdown on critical news media and the opposition in Russia.

The designation of The Moscow Times as an “undesirable organization” means that the newspaper must cease all operations in Russia immediately. Furthermore, any Russian individual who collaborates with the paper could face up to five years in prison.

This declaration is a significant escalation from the previous “foreign agent” designation that was imposed on the news outlet in November. The “foreign agent” status subjects individuals and organizations to increased financial scrutiny and requires them to prominently display a notice of being declared a foreign agent on all public material.

The Moscow Times had already moved its editorial operations out of Russia in 2022 following the introduction of a law that imposed harsh penalties for content deemed as discrediting the Russian military and its actions in Ukraine. The newspaper publishes in both English and Russian, but its Russian-language site was blocked in Russia shortly after the conflict in Ukraine began.

In response to the decision, The Moscow Times released a statement saying that the labeling of the newspaper as “undesirable” is just another attempt to suppress their reporting on the truth in Russia and the war in Ukraine. They emphasized that this designation will make it even more challenging for them to carry out their work, as it puts their reporters and sources at risk of criminal prosecution.

The Moscow Times vowed not to be silenced by this pressure and reiterated their commitment to providing unbiased and truthful reporting. The publication, which began in 1992 as a daily print paper for expatriates in Moscow, has since transitioned to an online-only platform in 2017.

This move against The Moscow Times is part of a broader trend in Russia where individuals and organizations critical of the Kremlin are targeted and labeled as “foreign agents” or “undesirable.” Other news outlets, such as Novaya Gazeta and Meduza, have faced similar challenges. Additionally, prominent opposition figures like Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza have been imprisoned by the Russian government.

The decision to declare The Moscow Times as an “undesirable organization” underscores the ongoing crackdown on independent media and dissent in Russia, raising concerns about freedom of expression and press freedom in the country.

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