Amid a rather intensifying crackdown on press freedom in Russia where media organizations have been unexpectedly shuttered down regarding reporting of the Ukraine invasion, employees of the last independent Russian news network resigned live on-air, stating “no to war.” Upon facing a warning of shutdown from Russian officials, Dozhd (TV Rain) announced on Thursday that it is now halting activities. The Russian communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has warned news organizations that if they continue to call the crisis in Ukraine an “attack, invasion, or declaration of war,” they will be banned or penalized.
Dozhd’s whole team quit live on-air, and one of the network’s creators, Natalia Sindeyeva, said “no to war” in the network’s final show. The broadcaster then aired a repeat of Tchaikovsky’s legendary ballet Swan Lake, which had been televised during the Soviet period whenever a leader passed away and was shown in August 1991 amidst an effort to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev’s administration as a symbolic resistance. Watching Swan Lake on TV indicated political instability in Moscow for Russians. This occurs shortly after the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station, established in 1990 and one of Russia’s few surviving anti-Kremlin media channels, was forced to close due to criticism over its coverage of the Ukraine conflict.
Despite a state assault on anti-Kremlin activists and free journalism in the past years, the station remained the most conspicuous independent outlet still operating in Russia. On Wednesday, Ekho Moskvy went off the air and the station’s board members confirmed its closure the next day. Its journalists have stated that they would continue to work on the station’s social media platforms as well as YouTube. On Friday, the Russian parliament enacted a measure imposing prison penalties of up to 15 years for knowingly disseminating “false” material about the military. The bill also prohibits advocating for sanctions on Russia to be imposed.