Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Moscow Times, the leading English newspaper, is considered “undesirable” in Russia.


Russia has appointed The Moscow Timesa leading English-language media outlet focused on covering Russia, is an “undesirable organization,” effectively banning its operations inside the country and exposing anyone who cooperates with it to potential criminal charges.

“A decision has been taken to declare the activities of the Moscow Times newspaper, a foreign non-governmental organization, undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the Russian prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Monday. The office accused the newspaper of “distorting the decisions of the Russian Federation’s leadership in foreign and domestic policy.”

Russian authorities have used the “undesirable” designation to force independent media and civil society organizations critical of the Kremlin to leave the country. Some of Russia’s most powerful investigative projects, such as Proekt, The Insider and Important Stories, have been similarly designated in recent years, severely limiting their ability to report inside the country and exposing reporters and potentially their interviewees to legal risk.

A “undesirable” designation forces organizations to cease operations in Russia and exposes Russians who work for, fund, or cooperate with them to potential prosecution, with prison sentences of up to five years.

The Moscow Times, which publishes in English and Russian, is the alma mater of many distinguished reporters covering Russia, including Ivan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges that the United States dismissed as trumped-up, and Eileen Barry, who later became the Pulitzer Prize-winning Moscow bureau chief in the early 2000s. The newspaper was founded by Dutch publisher Dirk Sauer in 1992, making it the first Western daily newspaper to be published in the country.

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The newspaper moved its bureau to Amsterdam in 2022 after Russia passed a set of laws restricting coverage of its invasion of Ukraine. A year later, the Russian Justice Ministry designated it a “foreign agent” — the first step authorities typically take to expel an organization from the country.

Access to the newspaper’s website had previously been restricted in Russia, where authorities cited “the systematic dissemination of false information of social significance aimed at discrediting the activities of our country’s government authorities in conducting a special military operation,” a euphemism the Kremlin uses to describe the war.

“This designation comes as no surprise — it was clear that our journalism, which tells the world the truth about Russia and its war in Ukraine, makes the Kremlin uncomfortable,” Samantha Birkhead, editor of The Moscow Times, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“Our jobs will become more difficult,” she added. “Anyone in Russia who deals with us in any way will now be at risk of criminal prosecution. But we refuse to remain silent.”



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