Piercing Russian Propaganda


Piercing Russian Propaganda

Since Russia's leadership ordered to invade Ukraine, it's also been waging war inside the country, against the last independent media standing. New legislation makes it possible to prosecute anyone who calls the war in Ukraine by its name; this has swiftly led to most outlets with uncensored coverage being blocked.

Here are five news websites that continue to provide unbiased coverage of Russia despite overwhelming odds, offering coverage that does not include Russian state propaganda. All are asking for and accepting donations from readers, including using foreign bank cards.

Meduza

What is it?  Meduza was launched in 2014 out of Riga, Latvia, by journalists and editors formerly working for Lenta, a legendary news website that was taken over by pro-Kremlin owners who then promptly fired its editor in chief. Meduza also has an English-language version and podcast called The Naked Pravda.

Why does it need support? Meduza was declared a "foreign agent" by Russia's authorities in 2021. This means it has to label all of its articles with a demeaning label which deters most advertisers, leading it to shift to crowdfunding finances from readers. Recently Meduza announced it can no longer accept money from Russia and has to rely on support from readers abroad. In March 2022, Meduza's website was blocked in Russia.

How does Meduza's coverage stand out? Recent articles include a report from the frontlines in the Donbas region, an interview a former executive of Gazprombank who went to Ukraine to join Kyiv's territorial defense and an investigation from Bohdanivka, a village near Kyiv where Russian soliders raped and killed civilians before retreating.

Where to donate: https://support.meduza.io/en

Mediazona

What? Mediazona was founded in 2014 by PussyRiot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. Originally, its focus was on Russia's police, court, and prison system. Mediazona has also launched news websites focusing on Belarus and Central Asia. It is known for providing especially good coverage of political trials, often publishing live transcripts of the proceedings.

Why? In 2017 Mediazona switched to relying exclusively on readers' donations, due to lack of funding from its western media partners. In 2021 it was branded a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. In March 2022, Mediazona's website was blocked by Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor, due to its war coverage.

How? Mediazona was perhaps the only Russian outlet that went to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Other notable recent articles include the story of a postal worker who sabotaged deliveries of military service summons, an analysis of Russia's casualties in the war, and a look at how mentions of Ukraine are being erased from Russian school textbooks.

Where? Donate.Zona.Media

Holod

What? Online magazine Holod (The Cold) was launched in 2019 by a former Kommersant and Meduza journalist, with the goal of publishing long-form articles on overlooked stories from provincial Russia. 

Why? Holod is funded largely by donations and online voluntary "subscriptions" (it does not have a paywall). Founder Taisia Bekbulatova was branded a "foreign agent" at the end of 2021, and in April 2022 Holod was blocked by Russia's media watchdog for its war coverage. 

How? Holod's wartime coverage has included a look at how the war has galvanized some of the indigenous movements inside Russia, interviews with Russian-Ukrainian couples about how they are handling the situation, and accounts by Ukrainian women who were victims of rape by Russian soldiers.

Where? Holod.Media/Donate

DOXA

What? Doxa was launched in 2017 by a student organization at the Higher School of Economics, publishing sociopolitical news and commentary with a focus on education and student life. It became widely known for its coverage of political protests and sexual harassment in Russian universities and eventually took on wider issues. Its dissenting stance in 2019 cost Doxa its status with the HSE, which cut off its funding.

Why? Doxa came especially under fire during the series of political protests in 2021 in support of Alexei Navalny. Four Doxa staff were placed under house arrest and prosecuted for posting a freedom of assembly video addressed to Russian students. They were recently convicted and sentenced to correctional labor.

How? Recent stories include accounts of Mariupol refugees about their treatment in Russia's filtration camps, an interview with a young woman whose own father reported her to the police for an anti-war online post, and a guide for young men on what to do if you receive a draft notice.

Where? Patreon

Bumaga

What? Bumaga is an online media outlet based in St. Petersburg, founded in 2012, and initially launched by some graduates of the St. Petersburg University. Its focus historically has been city news from Russia's "cultural capital."

Why? In April 2022 the Russian government blocked Bumaga's website over its war coverage, making it impossible for it to make money through online marketing. 

How? Bumaga has written about how the war caused an increase in domestic violence in Russia, profiled Sasha Skochilenko, an artist (and former Bumaga employee) who faces 10 years in jail for writing anti-war messages on supermarket price tags (this story has been translated into English), and an overview of police raids on homes of anti-war activists.

Where? Use the form on the right-hand side of this page to donate from a non-Russian bank card.

See Also

Fighting for Truth

Fighting for Truth

While state censor Roskomnadzor objects to the terms attack, invasion, or war being used for the Russian "special military operation" in Ukraine, average Russians are showing their disapproval.

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