Perhaps it had to happen that the order to muzzle Russian media came from Moscow’s Chinatown: Russia’s media-monitoring agency, a.k.a. Roskomnadzor, resides at Kitay-gorod, and its announcement that henceforth media outlets are to delete reports using the words “assault,” “invasion,” or “declaration of war” to describe Russia’s military incursion into neighbouring Ukraine was unconditional.
Who are those guys that they wield such a sword over what gets and doesn’t get reported in all of Mother Russia?
Here’s their official description: they are the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Russian: Федеральная служба по надзору в сфере связи, информационных технологий и массовых коммуникаций). The Russians have loved their abbreviations since Vladimir Lenin founded the Soviets, that’s why Roskomnadzor (Russian: Роскомнадзор).
Described as Russian federal executive agency, they are responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring Russian mass media. They cover it all, from printed media to electronic media, through mass communications to all forms of information technology and telecommunications, they supervise compliance with the law.
In a typically unforgettable Bolshevik jargon, they make sure that personal data remain confidential (whoever believes that, please apply to buy a well-kept medieval castle in the middle of Florida’s Everglades). Their job includes organising the work of the radio-frequency service, too.
And all that with barely 3,000 busy-beaver employees.
To the facts
Headlined Facts about dissemination of untrustworthy information in means of mass information established (Установлены факты распространения недостоверной информации в СМИ), Roskomnadzor’s official website states (in verbatim translation):
At the behest of the office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Roskomnadzor has directed notifications regarding the requirement to limit access to untrustworthy information to sources Moscow Ekho (Эхо Москвы), InoSMI (foreign mass media, ИноСМИ), Mediazone (Медиазона), New Times, Rain (Dozhdj, Дождь), Free Press (Svobodnaia Pressa, Свободная Пресса), Crimea.Facts (Krym.Realii, Крым.Реалии), New Newspaper (Novaia gazeta, Новая газета), Journalist (Журналист), Lenizdat (Лениздат).
The sources mentioned above are posting, as reliable news, publicly important information that does not correspond with reality about shelling of Ukrainian cities and casualties among peaceful Ukrainian citizens caused by actions of the Russian Army, as well as correspondence that describe the ongoing operation as attack, invasion or declaration of war.
In case such untrustworthy information as mentioned is not removed, access to such sources will be limited in accordance with Section 15.3 of the Federal law No. 149-F3 “About information, information technologies, and protection of information.”
Roskomnadzor has also opened administrative investigation regarding the distribution of publicly important untrustworthy information by the named media of mass information. This offence carries responsibility envisioned by Section 13.15 of KoAP (administration law, Кодекс об административных правонарушениях) of the Russian Federation), as an administrative fine of up to 5 million roubles.
Roskomnadzor recommends emphatically to editorial offices of mass information media to check their plausibility before publication (broadcast), according to Section 49 of the Law on mass information media.
We stress that it is specifically the official Russian sources of information that have trustworthy and up-to-date information at their disposal.
Thus the Russian chief censor spake. Those five million in Russian currency is nothing to sneeze at, either: $60,015.00 or $76,369.90 Canadian could be one reporter’s full-year salary.
One irony: Lenizdat is named as one of the culprits. Founded in 1917, it is one of the oldest Russian publishers. And it got its name to commemorate Russia’s first Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin.
Boy, how the mighty have fallen!
Shaking in their boots? Not!
It will take a bit more than a Roskomnadzor order for Russian journalists to shut their mouths (and keep them shut).
People who work in publications that had caught President Vladimir Putin’s eye for having such chutzpah as to have their own opinion on things have lived (most of them, anyway) in a country that knew worse than a former KGB spy who’d made it all the way to the top.
First to jump into the rink was President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Jamie Fly: “RFE/RL will not comply with Roskomnadzor’s demands. The Kremlin’s threats are a blatant attempt to whitewash the brutal facts about the human cost of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine.”
Novaia gazeta took one step further. Hearing that Russia’s Defence Ministry arched them and several other Russian media of “actively disseminating fake information” purportedly prepared by Ukrainian “nationalists” and the Ukrainian SBU security agency, Novaya gazeta had the cheek to publish its earlier request, sent to the Defence Ministry, asking for casualty figures. It also included a line saying that the Ministry never responded.
“In order for us to publish your information, you have to send it to us,” Novaya gazeta wrote.
Meanwhile, it seems not only President Donald J. Trump has had issues with Twitter: a number of Russian providers have restricted the social media application’s use in Russia.
Social media are facing a tough ride overall: under the headline saying that measures have been taken to defend Russian mass information media (Приняты меры по защите российских СМИ), the ever-vigilant Roskomnadzor found that Facebook had blocked the accounts of several Russian state-media outlets, for example RIA Novotel and the Defence Ministry’s own television channel, Zvezda.
Mikhail Gorbachev opened the door to the fall of the Soviet Union by introducing the policy known as openness (glasnost) in the 1980s.
Vladimir Putin is now trying his mightiest to turn the wheel of history back.
When then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain permitted Adolf Hitler to lead him down the garden path, his successor, Sir Winston Churchill, told him: “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.”
Vladimir Putin should have these words translated into Russian and painted on the wall opposite to his desk in the Kremlin.