‘The press is completely destroyed’

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Since March 5, after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, journalists have been accused of broadcasting “ False information about the army He could be sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Tuesday 3 May, on World Press Freedom Day, RFI is reviewing its status in Russia, as it appears that there is little left of it.

In the face of the Kremlin’s threats, the forced closure of many television and radio stations and Blockage of major social networks connected to the West – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – Many Russian journalists can no longer practice their profession. Sergey Buntman works for Russian RadioEcho of Moscow. His station was banned a few weeks after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

For him, these new restrictive laws dealt a major blow to press freedom: “ It is absolutely impossible, as official media, to attempt to organize debates or debates about current events. The aggression of Ukraine constituted a real turning point in the way he practiced his profession: The whole suppression machine has begun. In stages, we shut down media outlets such as Echo of Moscow or Dogged. New laws providing for arrests and criminal prosecutions are another blow to the press. »

► To read also: War in Ukraine: “It is impossible to be a journalist in the independent media in Russia”

alternative flood channel

Despite all these violations of press freedom, many journalists continue to publish outside the official media. This is the case of Serge Buntman who goes through the YouTube channelEcho of Moscow To continue informing the public. A trend confirmed by Stephanie Lamy, a specialist in disinformation. I wrote the book Agora Toxica in this subject : ” There are some interesting initiatives coming up. Whether it was with advertising windows or with the shortwave radios we knew during the Soviet era. »

Sergey Buntman wants to be more figurative in creating these alternative media: Except for this quiet and professional river of information, dozens of small streams created by journalists appeared. »

The goal according to Stephanie Lamy? ” Reaching different goals of the Russian population to allow them to think more critically about what the Kremlin offers them. »

But if access to these channels is relatively easy, and digital tools such as VPNs are often used, then the Russian population will not necessarily look for this information. Sergey Buntman talks about a kind of complacency in advertising: “ It is quite possible to extract the required information. But “required” is the key word. Because there are a lot of people who don’t want that. They find comfort in the one-sided propaganda and information broadcast on state television. »

► Read also: Freedom of the press is a side victim of wars

Russian population in the face of information

However, it is still difficult to know the desire of the Russian people for information. Stephanie Lamy refuses to speak of a monolithic mass to invoke the Russian people: “ You have of course the toasts. Those close to the Kremlin, who know very well that some elements of the language are misinformation. At the same time, there are other elites who are critics of power. »

Finally, Stephanie Lamy defines the third layer: You have a significant part of the Russian people, far and away from the centers of power, receiving information as verified by the Kremlin. »

The Dugd TV channel, which has also been closed since the beginning of the Russian offensive, clearly shows that a significant part of the population is still trying to get information from the free and independent media. The YouTube channel Dogged, which broadcasts from Europe, drew more than 20 million viewers on its first broadcast in early March.

► Read also: Website RFI Banned in Russia

Sergey Buntman stayed in Moscow to do his work as a journalist: “ We are doing our homework. It is necessary to continue to perform our profession. He and his colleagues put the ethics of his profession and deontology at the heart of his work, which may seem paradoxical to him: ” This social and popular media will not require professionalization with reliable, verifiable and controversial information. On these platforms, it is very easy to become an activist. We are trying to preserve the profession, it is very important for the future because the press today is completely destroyed. »

Faced with this situation, Sergei Buntman does not expect to be able to officially resume the antenna, on a national channel, as long as Vladimir Putin is in power.

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