Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on social media platforms not to comply with the Russian media regulator’s ‘draconian’ request to remove accounts held by OVD-Info, a non-profit organization that monitors police arrests across the country, as part of a sweeping crackdown on independent media. and civic organizations.
Russian authorities escalated their “war on reliable and independent online reporting” when state media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked access to the OVD-Info site in December, the freedom watchdog Paris-based media said in the statement January 20.
Roskomnadzor also called on social media platforms to shut down OVD-Info’s accounts, which RSF said would “lead to its complete demise.”
Among other things, OVD-Info documents detentions during protests and cases of political harassment and has served as a clearinghouse linking detained protesters with defense attorneys.
This media “is used as a reference source by many publications and NGOs, both in Russia and abroad”, RSF said.
“Having eliminated almost all independent media by targeting their owners to influence editorial policy, censoring articles and blocking websites through both judicial and extrajudicial means, Russian authorities are now targeting media platforms social,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF. Eastern Europe and Central Asia office.
Roskomnadzor’s request is “unacceptable”, Cavelier said, saying it “not only violates Russia’s constitution and its international obligations, but also deprives its citizens of a vital source of information for public debate.”
“We urge Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Google (YouTube), Twitter and Telegram to act in accordance with the principles they proclaim in refusing to remove media accounts such as OVD-Info,” she said.
RSF said Russian authorities had “increased pressure on international platforms”, imposing “unprecedented” fines on Google and Facebook for posting content banned by Roskomnadzor despite repeated requests for removal.
Google is to pay up to 7.2 billion rubles ($93 million) and Facebook nearly 2 billion rubles ($26 million) for breaking the country’s rules on banned content. Fines were also imposed on Twitter, TikTok and other social media companies for similar fees.
Meanwhile, Russian search engine Yandex no longer displays content from OVD-Info, which has also been targeted by the Justice Ministry.
In September, the ministry added the NGO to the list of “foreign agents”, a defamatory label that has been used by authorities to “intimidate journalists and sow confusion”, said RSF.
Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.