A newspaper group in Russia has risked the wrath of government authorities by publishing editions that carry a stern anti-war message.
The publishing group VK-media, which is not connected to social media giant Vkontakte, published editions of their papers in the Urals region with a cover dedicated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The message “This madness must be stopped” sits above the fold of Wednesday’s editions of Vecherniy Krasnoturinsk, Vecherniy Karpinsk, Pro Severouralsk and Globus.
In the left-hand corner, the papers issue a direct challenge to Russia’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, which has ordered media outlets in the country to delete reports using the words “assault,” “invasion,” or “declaration of war” to describe the conflict.
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“Roskomnadzor prohibits Russian media outlets from calling what is going on in Ukraine in the last few days a war,” the papers’ message said. “But if you call black white, then it won’t stop being black.”
The covers also have a QR code that links to a Change.org petition opposing the war that had been signed by more than 1 million people.
Kevin Rothrock, editor of independent outlet Meduza which itself has been the target of Russian authorities, tweeted that “police have now RAIDED the publisher’s offices and are seizing all copies of these newspapers.”
Several newspapers that belong to the publisher VK-Media (not to be confused with Vkontakte) have placed anti-war messages above the fold on their latest editions. “This madness must be stopped!” it says.
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 2, 2022
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Russian prosecutor general’s office ordered Roskomnadzor to take off the air the independent broadcasters and Kremlin-critical outlets Echo of Moscow and Dozhd TV and block access to their websites.
In a statement on the Echo of Moscow website, the radio station’s editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said that it would mount a legal challenge to the decision to take it off air, which it said was “insulting to journalists and citizens of Russia.”
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He said that there was a “political component” in the decision which was “censorship, which is directly prohibited by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.”
The U.S. based Committee to Protect Journalists said that the move by the Russian authorities “is clear censorship and undermines the free flow of information.”
Over the last week, Roskomnadzor has been involved in a spat with Facebook after the social media giant said it would restrict content published by Russian state media outlets Zvezda TV, RIA Novosti, Lenta.ru, and Gazeta.ru.
Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs of Facebook’s parent company Meta, said the network had refused Russian authorities’ requests to stop independent fact-checks and marking content published by state-owned groups.
On Tuesday, Roskomnadzor called for a lifting of restrictions on access to the Facebook and Instagram accounts of state-funded news outlets RT and Sputnik, which have been accused of promoting Kremlin propaganda about the war.
The European Union announced a ban on the Russian state-backed channels broadcasting their content.