Russia orders shut down of country’s only independent TV channel and a liberal radio station

Russian citizens will be left with only the official line coming from the country’s state-run outlets

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 01 March 2022 21:15 GMT
Ukrainians throw Molotov cocktail over Russian tank

Russia has now ordered the shut down of the country’s only independent TV channel and a liberal radio station in a move that threatens to censor coverage of its invasion of Ukraine and leaves citizens with propaganda from state-run outlets as their only source of information.

On Tuesday, Russia’s media watchdog was ordered to “restrict access” to TV channel Dozhd TV and radio station Ekho Moskvy, after they were accused of spreading “deliberately false information” about Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

The prosecutor general’s office said that the two outlets were spreading “false information regarding the actions of Russian military personnel as part of a special operation” in Ukraine and were sharing “information calling for extremist activity, violence”.

Both websites appeared to have been taken down in Russia soon after the announcement, according to AFP.

While Russia’s state-owned media has been promoting President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda and his false justification for the war on Ukraine as a “special military operation” to “denazify” the country, the two news sources remained critical of Moscow and the attack on Ukraine.

The chief editor of Ekho Moskvy - one of the countries top and oldest radio stations - confirmed to the Associated Press that it had been taken off the air on Tuesday.

Dozhd TV, which translates as Rain TV, posted on Twitter that the Prosecutor General’s Office had demanded access be blocked to the two outlets and provided no details on what content it believes broke Russian laws.

“The notice Dozhd received after the blocking began did not identify specific materials that the Prosecutor General’s Office believes violate Russian laws,” the channel tweeted.

Dozhd TV said it will continue to report information through its social media channels.

“The rain continues to work. Our materials will be published in social networks (including on Twitter),” it tweeted on Tuesday evening local time.

“You can find Rain’s materials in Telegram, VKontakte, Facebook, Odnoklassniki, Instagram.”

Back in August, the TV station was labeled a “foreign agent” by Moscow when the channel was critical of Mr Putin in the lead-up to the election.

The shutdown comes six days after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine killing at least 136 Ukrainian civilians and bombing preschools and residential buildings as Mr Putin tries to take control of the capital Kyiv.

Russian officials threatened to shut down independent media within hours of Thursday’s declaration of war if the outlets did not tow the Kremlin’s official line about the attack.

Since then, the website for Current Time - a Russian TV channel launched by the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that was critical of Mr Putin - has gone offline.

Mr Putin has been trying to control the narrative around his invasion of Ukraine.

But Russian citizens have been pushing back against the propaganda, with huge protests breaking out across dozens of cities and demonstrators being arrested by the state’s police forces.

Russian forces also targeted Kyiv’s central TV broadcasting antenna on Tuesday in an attack that killed at least five people and struck the Holocaust memorial.

Ukraine’s main TV stations were thrown offline by the targeted attack.

Meanwhile, major tech companies and Western nations are limiting access to Russian networks overseas.

DirecTV became the latest to cut ties with Russia Today “effective immediately” on Tuesday, following in the footsteps of Google, TikTok, Facebook, and Microsoft which have all limited access to the state-owned TV network.

The EU also said it was developing tools to ban the “toxic and harmful disinformation” in Europe through Russia Today and state-owned news agency Sputnik, saying it will “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union”.

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