It's election season in Russia and that means danger for journalists and civil society activists. With the image-conscious Vladimir Putin primed to retake the presidency in March and his United Russia party preparing for tough parliamentary contests next week, the Kremlin has turned to its propagandists and information enforcers.
A litany of new abuses
Russia's human rights record is chequered at best (take, for example, a new St Petersburg bill that criminalizes all forms of expression by the LGBT community and it supporters). As Putin and company kick into high electoral gear, here are two worrying cases of recent censorship – one in the press and the other in civil society.
Last week, the state-owned RIA-Novosti news agency reportedly forbade an employee from translating foreign articles critical of Putin. The employee, Grigory Okhotin, resigned his post at Inosmi, a RIA-Novosti subsidiary. Okhotin's removal followed three suspensions of independent online political forums and repeated denial-of-service attacks on the popular blogging site LiveJournal.
They are targeting both the traditional media, which are closely scrutinised, criticised and threatened, and the Internet, a Reporters Without Borders (RSF) statement warned Thursday.
Another target of the state is Golos, a leading election observation organization. The group has faced break-ins, denunciations in the press, and a closure petition signed by three MPs (one of whom belongs to Putin's United Russia party). Golos is known for its citizen-reported Election Violation Map, which allows citizens to report voting irregularities and intimidation.
Take action: As Russia silences its citizens, the world has an obligation to speak up. We're appalled by this behavior. If you are too, let us know, and we can start a hard-hitting campaign for press freedom. To learn more about the Kremlin's censorship drive visit RSF's Russia page.