Russia Bans Independent English News Outlet, The Moscow Times, as ‘Undesirable’

In a blatant attempt to suppress dissenting voices, Russia has designated The Moscow Times, one of its leading English-language news outlets, as an “undesirable organization.” This decision, announced on Wednesday by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, effectively bans the news outlet’s operation within Russia and threatens anyone who collaborates with it with prosecution. The statement from the prosecutor general’s office declared, “A decision has been taken to declare the activities of The Moscow Times, a foreign nongovernmental organization, undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation.”

The authorities justified this move by accusing The Moscow Times of “discrediting the decisions of the leadership of the Russian Federation in both foreign and domestic policy.” They further alleged that the outlet engaged in “publications containing unreliable socially significant information aimed at discrediting the activities” of the Russian government, specifically regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine. This crackdown comes just days after The Moscow Times published a report citing a poll by the Levada Center, which indicated that 58% of Russians support peace talks with Ukraine.

This declaration has far-reaching consequences for the staff of The Moscow Times, potentially subjecting them to up to six years in prison for their work. Sharing the outlet’s articles online is also criminalized, further tightening the grip on information flow. It is important to remember that this is not the first time The Moscow Times has faced Russia’s wrath. In April 2022, the outlet’s website was blocked, and in November 2023, it was labeled a “foreign agent,” making it nearly impossible to monetize its audience within Russia.

“The Moscow Times has a long tradition of fact-based independent journalism,” stated Derk Sauer, the outlet’s founder, in a statement on Wednesday. “Whatever label the Russian authorities put on us, we’ll continue with our mission to provide our Russian and international readers with quality journalism. In Putin’s Russia, this is now a crime,” the statement continued. Sauer has previously helped around 150 staff members from The Moscow Times and other banned Russian news outlets relocate to Amsterdam with their families following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Moscow Times was established in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It quickly emerged as Russia’s primary English-language news source. Despite immense pressure from the Kremlin following President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, the outlet maintained its editorial independence. While the publication discontinued its print edition in 2017, it launched a Russian-language service in 2020 to reach a broader audience. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the organization has relocated to the Netherlands. Former staff members include prominent journalist Evan Gershkovich, who is currently facing espionage charges in Russia.

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