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4 Mar, 2022 09:45

BBC, Deutsche Welle, and other websites restricted in Russia

The news outlets are being “limited” by the country’s media regulator amid the conflict in Ukraine
BBC, Deutsche Welle, and other websites restricted in Russia

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor limited access to Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) and blocked the Meduza news outlet website on Friday morning, its registry of restricted internet resources shows. Both had been designated “foreign agents.” Access to the websites of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and BBC has also been restricted.

According to the watchdog, access was limited after a decision taken by Russia’s general prosecutor in accordance with regulations to limit websites that contain “appeals for civil unrest, extremism, and participation in illegal mass demonstrations” in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meduza, based in Latvia, was accorded foreign agent status in April 2021, because it was alleged that it was funded by non-commercial organizations abroad. Radio Liberty had been added to the same list in 2017, along with the Golos Ameriki (Voice of America) radio station. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced at the time that the measures were reciprocal and had been adopted after RT was obliged to be registered as a foreign agent in the US. 

On Thursday, the Moscow TV station Rain (Dozhd) temporarily suspended its broadcasts, having been blocked for two days for alleged false reporting on the offensive in Ukraine. The Russian government designated the channel a foreign agent in August 2021, due to the large donations it had received from overseas organizations. The decision was announced by its owner, Natalia Sindeeva, who said her journalists needed “strength and time to exhale [so as to] understand how to work further,” and that she hoped Rain would one day return to the airwaves. 

The radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow), blocked for the same reason, also made the decision to shut down on Thursday. It had been one of the Russian capital’s most popular liberal media outlets, and this was the first time it had been off-air in almost 30 years. Alexey Venediktov, its editor-in-chief, hit out at the decision, insisting the allegations werenot supported by any examples or evidence.” He has vowed to contest the ruling, which he described as “censorship prohibited by the Constitution.” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday, after the leaders of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, recently recognized by Russia as sovereign states, appealed for assistance in relation to what they claimed was increasing “aggression” from Kiev’s armed forces. Ukrainian officials insist the military assault was completely unprovoked. The offensive has been met with indignation and a wide range of unprecedentedly severe economic sanctions targeting Russia and a select list of its government officials.