On Friday, April 23, the Russian Justice Ministry added Meduza to its list of “foreign agent” media outlets. Glance at the Russian-language side of our operation and the reverberations of this police action are unmistakable: Russian law requires us to notify readers about our new status in every message, whether it’s a news report or a post on social media. Crippling us further, these notifications must appear in a font that is twice the size of our actual content. That’s the law.
If we refuse to label our materials like this (exactly as specified), the authorities can impose fines on Meduza, press felony charges against Meduza’s editor-in-chief, and even block our content in Russia.
But even if we agree to comply with these requirements, Meduza’s new status in Russia presents at least three threats.
First, we have to add the “foreign agent” notification to every page on our website, including the spaces where we place advertisements. Meduza is a private company. We earn a living this way and we’re proud of it. We expect to lose a significant number of our advertisers in the coming weeks. This will mean the death of Meduza as we know it.
Second, the writers who receive salaries from Meduza are now at risk of being designated as individual foreign agents. Should this happen (and there are already precedents), they would be forced to report all their income and expenses to Russia’s Justice Ministry, just as Meduza is now required to do. Any reporting errors could lead to fines and even felony charges and imprisonment, making it easier than ever to exert pressure on our reporters.
Third, by designating us as foreign agents, the Russian authorities are trying to convince our sources that we are enemies of the state. The government wants them to believe that it’s dangerous even to speak to us. It’s highly likely that our new status will rob us of many vital sources and complicate our access to leading experts.
No media outlet saddled with the “foreign agent” label can practice full-fledged journalism. This designation destroys our business. Russia’s Justice Ministry is executing a political decision reached by Russia’s political leaders. Make no mistake: the authorities’ goal is to kill Meduza.
For the first time in our history, we have no clear plan of action, heading forward. There’s no solution, no matter how simple or complex, that allows us to manage all the challenges of this designation. We honestly don’t know what to do next.
But we aren’t giving up. We will keep looking for a way out. We’d all love a miracle, of course. We’ll do our best, but we can’t promise anything.
We will keep you posted.