“We’re publishing this text while there’s still time,” independent Russian media site Meduza said.
“Within a few days, maybe even today, it is possible that there will be no independent media left in Russia,” read the statement published to Meduza’s website Thursday.
The independent media outlet said that Moscow’s regulator, Roskomnadzor, has ordered journalists to refer to Russia’s invasion as a “special military operation.”
Roskomnadzor has warned more than a dozen media outlets, including VOA’s Russian language website, that they will be fined or blocked unless they remove content Russia deems illegal or that details military information.
VOA Acting Director Yolanda Lopez said Wednesday that the network could not comply with the order, adding, “The Russian people deserve unfettered access to a free press.”
Renowned Russian outlets including Ekho Moskvy closed this week, citing warnings over their coverage of the war, and journalists from Russia and Ukraine have been forced to flee or relocate.
Russian state media have also come under pressure, with the EU banning broadcasts and RT America announcing Thursday that it would cease operations in the U.S.
Two prominent Russian independent outlets were forced off the air this week, and access to RFE/RL’s Current Time and Crimea.Realities was blocked.
The board of iconic liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy on Thursday voted to liquidate the station and website.
Ekho Moskvy was taken off the airwaves Tuesday along with Dozhd TV after they failed to comply with orders from the regulator over their coverage.
In its decision, the prosecutor cited the station’s sharing “of information calling for extremist activities, violence and deliberately false information about the actions of Russian forces as part of a special operation” in Ukraine.
Editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov told Reuters at the time, “Our editorial policies won’t change.”
Several staff members from Dozhd TV have left Russia, citing censorship and safety concerns.
With access to the website blocked and reports of harassment, “it is obvious that the personal safety of some of us is under threat,” Editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko told reporters.
“No matter how black and nasty it is now, and no matter how happy some are with our decision, we will still win. This is inevitable, because the truth ultimately wins,” he added.
The U.S. and the European Union have condemned Russian censorship over coverage of its war in Ukraine.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Thursday that Moscow “is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth.”
Psaki cited the media regulator threats to Ekho Moskvy, Dozhd and VOA’s Russian Service, bans on terms used to describe the war, and restrictions on social media platforms.
“What they are trying to do is block any information about what they are doing to invade a sovereign country, and they’re taking severe steps to do exactly that,” she said.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said late Wednesday that Russia’s efforts to “mislead and suppress the truth” about the country’s invasion of Ukraine were intensifying, and that the Russian people deserved to know the truth about what’s happening.
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told VOA that Moscow’s “manipulation and censorship of the media is appalling.”
“The Russian people deserve access to the truth about Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression and instead are being fed lies by the Putin regime,” said McCaul. “The U.S. must continue to robustly support independent media to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation.”
The EU has also condemned censorship and disinformation. Member states on Wednesday voted to block transmissions of Russian-backed state media, including Sputnik and RT.
RT America on Thursday announced it would cease operations immediately, citing moves by providers that dropped its broadcasts this week.
Broadcaster Holland Cooke, who hosted a weekly show on RT America, said on a news website that management called a meeting Thursday and announced the U.S. division would cease operations because of condemnation over Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
A memo sent to staff said production would stop “due to unforeseen business interruption events,” CNN reported.
Moscow’s independent journalists are standing in solidarity with their colleagues. More than 200 signed an open letter protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Novaya Gazeta, the renowned Russian outlet run by Nobel Peace laureate Dmitry Muratov, on Tuesday said it would offer space to Ekho Moskvy and other media on its site.
Across Europe, media are also offering help and assistance to journalists forced to flee.
Kosovo on Wednesday allocated 150,000 euros or $165,000 toward six months of living costs, wages and shelter for up to 20 Ukrainian journalists.
Priority will be given to female reporters recommended by the European Federation of Journalists and European Center for Press and Media Freedom, Reuters reported.
The London-based media trade magazine The Fix, which focuses on media in Europe, has also offered practical support, setting up partnerships with newsrooms to provide tech and relocation support, and regional hubs so journalists can keep reporting.
“In peaceful times, The Fix is a trade publication and knowledge hub that covers media management in Europe,” Zakhar Protsiuk, the outlet’s managing editor, told VOA via email. “[But] in the first hours of the Russian invasion, we reorganized our work to support Ukrainian media.”
The Fix, which has strong Ukrainian ties, said it was connecting European outlets such as the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Germany’s Axel Springer and others with journalists in need of equipment and support in Ukraine or help setting up hubs across Europe so they can keep publishing.
Protsiuk said they were working with independent media in Ukraine and partners in a nongovernmental organization, the Media Development Foundation.
“The Fix team has a lot of experience in working in difficult environments,” Protsiuk said. “My colleagues have been providing help for media working in eastern Ukraine; we are working with many Belarus independent media who had to flee the country.”
Members of the Council of Europe Platform to Promote Journalist Safety released a joint statement to demand the safety of news crews.
“We emphasize that journalists are considered civilians under international humanitarian law and are not legitimate targets,” the statement said.
The platform called for “urgent and practical international assistance and support” for those covering the conflict, saying independent news is essential in conflict situations.
“Their work helps keep people safe and ensures that the international community can understand the full consequences of this invasion and its appalling impact on human lives,” the statement added.