Washington, D.C., March 1, 2021 — Russian authorities should allow Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow), Dozhd TV, and all other news outlets to work freely, and should refrain from restricting access to social media platforms, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
Since last week, Russian authorities have slowed and restricted access to Facebook and Twitter throughout the country, according to the country’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and statements by those companies.
On Tuesday, March 1, the Russian prosecutor general’s office ordered Roskomnadzor to take independent broadcasters Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV off the air and block access to their websites, according to news reports and reports by both outlets. The outlets’ websites were inaccessible in Russia shortly after that order was announced, those reports said.
“Russian authorities’ restricting of social media platforms and independent media outlets is clear censorship and undermines the free flow of information,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities must allow Ekho Moskvy, Dozhd TV, and all other independent outlets to report freely, and should cease hampering access to Facebook and Twitter.”
On February 25, Roskomnadzor published a statement saying that it would slow access to Facebook throughout the country after the social media network “restricted” the pages of Russian state-funded outlets Zvezda TV, RIA Novosti, Lenta.ru, and Gazeta.ru.
Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs at Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, posted on Twitter that the social media company had refused Russian authorities’ requests to stop publishing independent fact-checks and using labels to mark content published by state-owned groups.
On February 26, the internet monitoring group NetBlocks reported that Facebook would not load or worked “extremely slowly making the platforms unusable.” That report also said that access to Twitter had been restricted in Russia, and Twitter posted that its service was restricted for “some people in Russia.”
Also on February 26, Roskomnadzor sent letters to 10 news organizations warning that access to the outlets would be restricted if they did not remove “false information” about the war in Ukraine, according to reports and CPJ documentation. Those outlets included Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV, as well as the independent news websites InoSMI, Mediazona, New Times, Novaya Gazeta, Free Press, The Journalist, and Linizdat, and the U.S. Congress-funded Krym.Realii, those reports said.
On February 28, authorities blocked the Russian-language websites of Krym.Realii and Current Time TV, a project affiliated with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, according to reports by both outlets.
RFE/RL reported that the websites were blocked after the outlets refused to delete information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at Roskomnadzor’s request.
Krym.Realii’s Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar-language websites remained accessible in Russia as of Wednesday, RFE/RL Deputy Director of External Affairs Martins Zvaners told CPJ.
In its notice blocking access to Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV, the prosecutor general’s office accused the outlets of spreading “information calling for extremist activity, violence” and “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel,” reports said.
Both outlets have recently covered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, quoting anti-war figures and calling it an “invasion” instead of the Russian government’s official phrasing as a “special military operation.”
Previously, Russian authorities slowed access to Twitter in late 2021 after the company failed to remove banned content, according to Reuters; in December, a Russian court fined Google nearly $100 million for failing to remove content, according to the The Washington Post.
CPJ emailed Roskomnadzor for comment but did not receive any reply.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include news of the blocking of Krym.Realii and Current Time TV.]