“More than 200 independent journalists leaving Russia continue to work” after creation “their channels on YouTube or on Telegram“said Denis Kataev, Russian star journalist for the independent television channel Dojd, on Tuesday, March 29, which closed its doors just before the entry into force of the law restricting the work of journalists.
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Denis Kataev is currently residing at Radio France’s international newsroom in Paris. The last independent media still active in Russia, Novaja Gazetasuspended publication Monday. “There are no more independent journalists since yesterday, it’s a historic day”, he regrets.
franceinfo: When was it no longer possible for you to do your job?
Denis Kataev: It became obvious immediately after this law was passed, the law against false information about the war, because it was impossible to say that it was a war. This law became something aimed at independent journalists. They have no place. It was time to leave. It was a signal sent to us.
This law punishes with a maximum of 15 years in prison the dissemination of information that may discredit the army or the authorities. Does this specifically mean that in the morning you were afraid to go to work?
Yes. Under this law, journalism is not possible. Novaya Gazeta has decided to continue the work. Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief and Nobel laureate, hoped to be able to continue and go all the way. Already in terms of compliance with this law. They did not release information about the war. They avoided this theme to avoid condemnation directed at journalists. However, their special envoys worked in Odessa, Mariupol and other cities in Ukraine. Unfortunately, they received another warning. The important thing here is that this law was not about preventing false information. But just the lack of mention of a foreign agent.
How is censorship practiced in Russia?
Censorship has established itself through Putin’s 20 years as a snowball effect. Every year new laws came. After the annexation of Crimea, this acquired an irreversible character. There were new laws being passed and we had to be ingenious to find formulas to circumvent these new laws. For the law on foreign agents, when we mention Alexei Navalny, we had to add every time that it was an extremist organization that was banned in Russia. Our show was just a set of words that we had to say to respect the law to keep sending.
What do the Russians know about what is happening in Ukraine?
There are no more independent journalists since yesterday. It is a historic day for 30 years of Russian media history. The last independent newsroom was Novaya Gazeta, and Dojd was one of the last independent media outlets. But more than 200 independent journalists who left Russia continue to work in a more dispersed way. They created their channels on YouTube or on Telegram. Viewers in Russia can continue to view them by using a VPN to access blocked resources. This target group exists. During the war, when we had our shows, when Dojd was still online in the early days of the war, before we were banned, we were seen on YouTube by 25 million people a day. There was a very large audience. I’m sure there were Ukrainians among them. We can not walk the streets to express ourselves, to express our resistance. This public can say nothing, but this public exists, and I know it.
Do you know if you can return to Russia?
I think the day will first come when Putin’s regime will crumble. I do not want to return to Putin’s Russia because it is dangerous for me as a journalist, but also because I can not stay in the country for an aggressor who does not respect the rights of his citizens and kills.