Russian TV channel targets ‘Iron Curtain’ from outside

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  • Russia toughens laws after Ukraine invasion
  • Independent media say they have to leave
  • Dozhd eager to reach Russian audiences abroad

TBILISI, June 21 (Reuters) – When television reporters Tikhon Dzyadko and Ekaterina Kotrikadze left Russia with other colleagues in March, they left the country without one of its few mainstream non-governmental media outlets.

The couple, top journalists from the independent TV channel Dozhd, have been broadcasting a current affairs program on their joint YouTube channel from neighboring Georgia since Dozhd went off the air, but are now preparing an official relaunch from abroad .

Their departure from Russia came after President Vladimir Putin signed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading ‘false’ information about the military, making criticism of the invasion illegal. Russian from Ukraine.

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Dozhd was one of many media outlets whose leaders took the decision to shut down their activities.

“The page of modern Russian history called independent journalism has been turned,” Dzyadko, editor-in-chief of Dozhd, told Reuters from a rudimentary television studio in Georgia, one of several countries from which they plan to operate. broadcast.

A live stream they aired last week scored over 92,000 views, allowing them to connect with part of their audience on one of the few online platforms that hasn’t been blocked by authorities. , who claim their critics are serving a hostile West.

But after Russia sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, Dozhd drew some 25 million daily views, even though the channel was designated a “foreign agent” by authorities last year.

The Kremlin describes its actions in Ukraine as a special military operation and accuses media that criticize it or its actions of being there to destroy Russia.

Launched in 2010, Dozhd, known as TV Rain in English, was a popular source of news about the mass protests following the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and other events that aren’t covered. by state television.

It plans to resume broadcasting from cities such as Tbilisi, Riga and Amsterdam in the coming weeks.

While many aspects of the relaunch are yet to be determined — including its precise date and format — Kotrikadze says Dozhd aspires to be “a real problem for Russian propaganda.”

“We want to be a huge headache for them,” said Kotrikadze, the channel’s news director.

‘IRON CURTAIN’

As Dozhd prepares to return to the airwaves, the channel faces two major challenges: reaching an increasingly isolated Russian audience and providing safe coverage from within the country despite restrictions.

“We get a lot of viewers because they see links on Facebook or Twitter,” Dzyadko said. “But since Facebook and Twitter have been blocked, even though people are using VPNs (virtual private networks), the audience is shrinking.”

Facebook and Twitter are strictly prohibited on Russian territory, but remain accessible via VPNs. Read more

Dzyadko fears that some Dozhd viewers may have filled the void left by the channel’s absence with state media content. For Kotrikadze, much of the success of the relaunch will depend on finding the right tone in reporting on Russia from outside.

“How should you talk to those who still believe the so-called ‘Special Military Operation’ is the right thing to do?” she said, referring to the term used by Russian authorities to describe the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

“I want to understand what they’re thinking. And I want to talk to them.”

Moscow blames Western countries – which have imposed far-reaching sanctions on Russia and restricted Russian news channels since the invasion of Ukraine – for the problems facing independent media in Russia.

Dzyadko remembers his parents listening to foreign Radio Liberty broadcasts in Moscow during Soviet times, and says Dozhd viewers will soon experience something similar.

“I have no doubt that there will be a way through this digital iron curtain in Russia,” he said.

(This story corrects media to digital in last paragraph)

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Reuters reporting; edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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