New York, July 26, 2023—Russian authorities should stop attempting to silence the exiled broadcaster Dozhd TV (TV Rain) and cease using the country’s “undesirable organization” law to intimidate independent media and their audiences, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, July 25, the Russian general prosecutor’s office outlawed SIA TV Rain and TVR Studios BV, the outlet’s branches in Latvia and the Netherlands respectively, by declaring them “undesirable” organizations, according to media reports, Dozhd TV reports, and a statement by the prosecutor’s office.
Organizations that receive the undesirable classification are banned from operating in Russia, and anyone who participates in them or works to organize their activities faces up to six years in prison and administrative fines. The designation also makes it a crime to distribute the outlet’s content or donate to it from inside or outside Russia.
“By banning Dozhd TV as ‘undesirable,’ Russian authorities are showing that their battle against news outlets offering independent information is by no means over,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities should immediately overhaul the legislation on ‘undesirable organizations’ instead of using it to stifle free reporting.”
In August 2021, Russia’s justice ministry labeled Dozhd TV a “foreign agent,” compelling the outlet to submit regular detailed reports on its activities and expenses and to flag that status on its content. The ministry has since regularly added Dozhd TV journalists to its foreign agent list.
Dozhd TV suspended operations in Russia in March 2022 following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, subsequent criminalization of “false information” about the Russian military, and the blocking of its website by state media regulator Roskomnadzor.
The Russian prosecutor’s office accused SIA TV Rain and TVR Studios BV of distributing materials from “undesirable,” “extremist,” and “terrorist organizations,” as well as “foreign agents” such as the independent news website Meduza.
The office also said the companies “discredit” Russian government bodies and law enforcement agencies, “disseminate false information” about the war in Ukraine, and support foreign agents.
Dozhd TV editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko said that the outlet had suspended crowdfunding in Russia, canceled subscriptions from Russian citizens, and asked them not to share its content within the country for their own safety.
“We’ve been labeled ‘undesirable in Russia,’ but we’re not: 13 million viewers in Russia last month confirm it,” he said in a statement.
In an interview with Meduza, Dzyadko called the prosecutor’s office decision “completely illegal” but “expected” and said that Dozhd TV will continue its work and look for other ways to secure funding. Dzyadko told CPJ via messaging app that an “important” part of Dozhd TV’s revenue came from donations from Russia.
Since 2021, Russian authorities have labeled dozens of organizations “undesirable,” including Meduza, Novaya Gazeta Europe, as well as investigative outlets iStories, The Insider, Bellingcat, and Proekt.
CPJ’s call to the Russian general prosecutor’s office was not answered.