Russian Media Outlets Ordered By Kremlin to Delete Stories on Alexei Navalny's Work

Russian authorities ordered multiple media outlets to remove dozens of stories covering Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's investigations.

This action is the latest in the Russian government's crackdown within recent months, labeling rights groups, media outlets and individuals as foreign agents, according to the Associated Press. Some individuals, including many of Navalny's allies, have been added to the state registry as terrorists, causing them to be detained or flee the country.

Russia threatened to block ten news outlets if they did not comply with deleting Navalny's corruption investigation coverage, according to The Moscow Times. Some outlets had to remove up to 34 articles, while others needed to remove six. Still, the media outlets agreed to remove the coverage to avoid future censorship.

One of Russia's most popular independent news organizations, Meduza, was designated as a foreign agent in 2021, which means it is obligated to add a 24-word disclaimer on all its content, according to the AP. If it fails to do so, it is fined.

Newsweek previously reported that Navalny is currently serving two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his 2014 fraud case, which many believe were politically motivated. The critic was arrested in January 2021 after returning from Germany. He spent five months recovering from being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok, which he blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian authorities continue to dismiss these allegations.

Despite his current prison sentence, Navalny was also considered by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, Newsweek previously reported.

Most of Navalny's top associates have faced prosecution over the past years. However, Russian spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the prosecutions are not politically motivated, according to the AP.

Many of Navalny's closest allies, including Ivan Zhdanov and Leonid Volkov, have fled the country and are wanted in connection to criminal charges, the AP reported.

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The Russian government ordered Russian media outlets to delete any coverage concerning opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he delivers a speech during a demonstration in Moscow on September 29, 2019, as thousands gathered in Moscow for a demonstration demanding the release of the opposition protesters prosecuted in recent months. Police estimated a turnout of 20,000 people at the Sakharov Avenue in central Moscow about half an hour after the start of the protest, which was authorized. Yuri KADOBNOV/Getty Images

Oleg Stepanov, Navalny's former office head who ran for State Duma, was also charged with violating COVID-19 protocols after organization protests for Navalny's arrest, the AP reports. Other members included in the case were Navalny's brother Oleg, Lyubov Sobol, and spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

Sobol, a long-time ally, spoke to the AP and faced four criminal charges last year.

"I was convicted in two criminal cases. Two more were launched against me. I was deemed a member of an extremist group. My team was pushed out of the country, and some two months I spent under house arrest," Sobol said.

Moscow authorities also outlawed Navalny's organization, the Foundation for Fighting Corruption and labeled the organization as "extremist," Newsweek previously reported.

After the fear of persecution, Open Russia, another opposition group, disbanded in May. Andrei Pivovarov, the group's leader, was jailed despite the group no longer existing, according to the AP.

Pivovarov was charged with running an "undesirable" organization and could spend up to six years in prison if convicted.

Russia also shut down Memorial, the country's oldest human rights organization, in 2021, claiming the group failed to identify as a foreign agent and created "a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state," according to the AP.

Despite Russia's recent crackdown on opposition members, activists refuse to back down. Sobol said to the AP that members are doing what they can.

"We post investigations. We do organizational work, and we see a strong support in the Russian society that hasn't shrunk," Sobol said.

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Police detain journalist Farida Rustamova holding a poster which reads "Journalism Freedom" during a protest outside the main headquarters of the country's top domestic security agency, the FSB, on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, Russia, August 21, 2021. A crackdown extended to dozens of media outlets, individual journalists and rights groups. They were labeled "foreign agents"—a designation that invites excessive government scrutiny and connotations that discredit the recipient. Denis Kaminev/Associated Press