The website of Russia’s only independent TV channel has been shut down in an ongoing crackdown on media coverage of the Ukraine war.
On Tuesday night, Russian internet providers shut down the website and app of Dozhd TV, also known as Rain TV, and took liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) off the airwaves.
Russians are unable to access Dozhd TV’s website or app other than through a VPN. Currently, it is possible to view Dozhd TV on YouTube without a VPN, though it is unclear how long the site will still be accessible in the country.
The clampdown, according to the prosecutor's office, was due to sharing “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian forces as part of a special operation."
The limiting of independent media comes after Russia invaded Ukraine seven days ago, falsely declaring its intervention a “special mission” of self-defence to stop the “Nazification” of Ukraine.
Dozhd TV is continuing to broadcast, with journalists risking potential imprisonment as new laws are set to come in.
“If you ask me if I see independent media inside the country now, I don't,” Vera Krichevskaya, former Dozhd TV journalist and documentary-maker, told VICE world News. “I don't know how to survive under this completely new reality.”
She added, “It's very high-risk. Very high personal risk.”
Earlier this week, VICE World News published an interview with the station’s founder, Natasha Sindeyeva, in which she said, “Nobody can make us do anything.” Now the channel’s future is uncertain.
Over the last few years, journalists who do not represent the Kremlin’s position have faced increasing intimidation, including being listed as “foreign agents” by the state.
“The picture that state-control media show to the Russian people, and what Dozhd and a couple of more [independent] media shows – they gave completely different pictures,” says Krichevskaya. “It looks like we live in two different countries.”
Liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy has also been taken off air because it honestly covered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian Parliament is set to debate a law on Friday that would restrict the use of the words “war” or “invasion” in relation to the military invasion of Ukraine. Breaking the rule could be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.