Russian liberal radio closes after pressure on Ukraine

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Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, delivers a statement in Moscow, Russia October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

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  • Pressure on the media intensifies during the war in Ukraine
  • Ekho Moskvy had been taken off the air this week
  • Station was one of the last liberal media in Russia
  • TV Rain Temporarily Halts Operations

MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) – Radio station Ekho Moskvy, one of Russia’s last liberal media outlets, has been dissolved by its board of directors after it came under pressure over its coverage of the war in Ukraine, reports said. its editor on Thursday.

The station, one of Russia’s main news and current affairs channels, was taken off the air on Tuesday although it still appeared to be streaming on YouTube on Thursday after the board’s decision was announced.

The disappearance of Ekho Moskvy from the airwaves has dealt a blow to independent media in Russia after years of mounting pressure from the authorities.

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Another independent outlet, TV Rain, said on Thursday it was temporarily suspending operations.

“Ekho Moskvy’s board of directors decided by majority vote to liquidate Ekho Moskvy’s radio channel and website,” editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said on the Telegram messaging app.

Venediktov told Reuters earlier this week that the station would not abandon the independent editorial line that has been its hallmark for three decades, saying: “Our editorial policies will not change.”

The council’s decision came after the attorney general’s office blocked the Ekho Moskvy and TV Rain websites for their coverage of the conflict. Read more

The prosecutor said his decision was prompted by the “targeted and systematic publication … of information calling for extremist activities, violence and deliberately false information about the actions of Russian forces in the framework of ‘a special operation’ in Ukraine.

Russia rejects the term invasion and says the actions it launched on February 24 are not aimed at occupying territory but at destroying Ukraine’s military capabilities and capturing what it considers dangerous nationalists – a pretext rejected by Ukraine and the West as baseless propaganda.

“We need strength to (…) understand how we can work from here,” TV Rain chief executive Natalya Sindeeva said in a statement announcing the suspension of its production. “We really hope we get back to broadcasting and continue our work.

CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT

Ekho Moskvy said on Tuesday that the charges against him were baseless and offensive, and that he would fight them in court.

Russian journalists have faced an increasingly difficult environment in recent years, with many being designated by the authorities as “foreign agents”, a status that traps them in official paperwork and exposes them to the defiance of the public.

Pressure has mounted since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, with most mainstream media and state-controlled organizations sticking closely to the language used by the Kremlin to describe the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment directly on the situation to Ekho Moskvy, saying the decision to close was made by his board.

“The radio station violated the law. The right of the attorney general’s office to take appropriate action was used,” he said at a press briefing.

When asked if Ekho Moskvy can resume operations in the future, Peskov replied that it depends on the owners of the station.

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Moscow bureau reporting Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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