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Khodorkovsky's Open Media, MBKh shut down after Russian regulator blocks them - RFE/RL

05.08.2021, 14:27

Open Media and MBKh, two online publications backed by exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, announced they were ceasing operations on August 5 after the sites were blocked by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Open Media announced its decision via its Telegram channel. MBKh's former editor in chief Veronika Kutsyllo made its closure announcement in a Facebook post.

Roskomnadzor's blocking of Open Media and MBKh is the latest move against independent media ahead of parliamentary and local elections in September.

Both Open Media and MBKh Media were unavailable for the users of most Russian Internet providers from late on August 4.

The outlets said they had not received any notification from authorities explaining why they were blocked.

Former oligarch Khodorkovsky moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin politically.

Open Media said its website was included on a Roskomnadzor list as a resource that includes calls for riots and extremist activities.Open Media said it received several letters on August 4 asking it to remove content from its website that was against the law. The letters, however, did not indicate the content in question.

According to Russia’s state registry of blocked websites, access to the news outlets was restricted on orders of the Prosecutor-General’s Office on August 3.

The registry referred to a law allowing the blocking of websites that incite mass unrest, extremist activities, or participation in unauthorized rallies.

Russia in recent weeks has designated a number of independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” or “undesirable” -- labels that imply an attempt to discredit the journalists or that apply additional government scrutiny.The widening crackdown ahead of the September 19 elections has targeted media regarded by authorities as hostile and foreign-backed.

Russian authorities last month labeled some journalists from the Open Media outlet as "foreign agents."

The so-called "foreign agent" law requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Numerous investigative media organizations, including RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, are among the news organizations that have been labeled “foreign agents."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (with AP and Reuters)

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