Exiled Russia journalists continue to make their voices heard from Riga

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By AFP
Tikhon Dzyadko, editor in chief of independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, poses in his office in Riga
Tikhon Dzyadko, editor in chief of independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, poses in his office in Riga   -   Copyright  GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP or licensors

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, independent Russian news outlets have struggled to provide information to millions of viewers who want to get information from non-state media. 

Facing fines or prison sentences for reporting information on the war that is not sanctioned by authorities, many Russian journalists have had to leave the country, with several hundred of them arriving in exile in Latvia. 

Their goal now is to find ways of getting news back to audiences in Russia, despite Moscow restricting access to top social media sites and its attempts to block what it calls dissident news websites.

"You can't be a journalist if the government says don't look there, just pretend that there is no war," said Kirill Martynov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe which has set up operations in Riga.  

For Martynov, the only way for journalism to exist now in Russia is for independent outlets like his to leave the country and work from abroad and to use shadow reporters, “people who work in a very risky situation."

The stakes are high for independent journalists in Russia. They can face up to 15 years in prison for even calling Russia's activities in Ukraine a war.

Many journalists who had to leave hold Russian state media responsible for the country's current situation.

Tikhon Dzyadko, the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian television station, Dozhd, is also in Riga. 

He considers Russian TV stations as war criminals “because they were waging this war and encouraging people to take part in it. 

"They were encouraging people to hate. They were encouraging people to kill, encouraging people to be killed because they were encouraging them to go as volunteers into Ukraine and be killed there by Ukrainian soldiers,” he adds. 

Dzyadko is advocating prosecutions for state media outlets who mislead their audiences. 

Latvia, whose Russian minority constitutes 30 per cent of the population, has banned all Russia-based TV channels and describes these as propaganda, warmongering and a threat to national security.