OSCE Criticises Russian Media Isolation and "Climate of Fear"

OrganizationsInternational Organizations ♦ Published: September 22, 2022; 17:14 ♦ (Vindobona)

Since 2012, the Russian government has been suppressing freedom of expression step by step. With a new law that will only allow information from official Russian channels, a new low has been reached to which the OSCE would like to draw attention once again.

More and more often, demonstrators fighting for freedom of expression are arrested and silenced. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons: Evgeniy Isaev from Moscow, Russia, CC BY 2.0

Teresa Ribeiro, the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media, recently renewed her criticism of the Russian leadership for massively restricting the country's media freedom. She accuses the government of violating the human right to freedom of expression and that of the media.

The commissioner's statement follows a 21 September statement by the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) urging that all media outlets use only information from official Russian sources when reporting on mobilisation activities for the army.

The regulator stated that dissemination of "false information" would result in administrative liability and online blocking.

With this new restriction by the Russian authorities, the pressure exerted on freedom of expression and the media has reached a new disappointing peak, Ribeiro declared.

"With an information infrastructure that is completely controlled by the government and leaves no room for news other than that controlled by the state, the authorities are moving further towards isolating their citizens from any form of independent information, depriving them of one of their most fundamental rights: the freedom to seek and receive information of all kinds," Ribeiro said.

She again calls on the authorities to fulfil their relevant OSCE principles and commitments and to create an environment that allows the media to report freely on matters of public interest without undue interference, threats and intimidation. Whether this appeal will fall on receptive ears remains to be seen.

The Representative also expressed concern about reports that several media workers were obstructed or arrested by law enforcement agencies while carrying out their professional duties and reporting on public protests related to the announcement of mobilisation to the army in various cities across the country.

New OSCE report describes "climate of fear"

A report to be published soon will also address the restricted freedom of expression in the Russian Federation. It criticises Russia's actions against its own citizens and describes a "climate of fear" prevailing in the world's largest country. Since the invasion of Ukraine, dissenting opinions have been severely suppressed.

According to ORF, the report is said to contain over 120 pages. According to the document, Russia itself neither participated in the investigation nor answered requests to visit the country. It is the third report initiated by OSCE member states since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe