This Russian Newsroom Has Been Cut Off From Its Readers Amid Putin's War. Now It's Asking The World To Help It Report The Truth.
Meduza, a Russian news site based in Latvia, is seeking 30,000 new supporters so that it can continue to deliver independent news to millions in Russia.
As Russia continues to censor information about its war in Ukraine, one of the country's only remaining independent news outlets is asking people around the world to donate to its newsroom so it can continue to report the truth to millions of readers in an increasingly isolated and controlled society.
On Monday, Meduza launched a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise donations from 30,000 new global supporters after it was cut off from donors in Russia and its journalists were forced to leave the country due to a law criminalizing independent news reporting of Vladimir Putin's deadly, full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
"We ask you to take the place of our dedicated supporters from Russia," the Meduza staff wrote. "We have a duty to tell the truth. We have millions of readers in Russia who need us. Without independent journalism, it will be impossible to stop this monstrous war."
Based in Latvia, Meduza was founded in 2014 by Russian journalists who left another news outlet that lost its independence after its cofounder Galina Timchenko was fired over her team's coverage of Ukraine and replaced with a Kremlin ally. Since then, Meduza, which publishes in Russian and English, has produced independent journalism despite ongoing attempts by the Russian state to discredit their work. (BuzzFeed News has previously partnered with Meduza to publish investigations on Russia.)
Last year, the Russian government labeled the news outlet a "foreign agent," requiring it to include a 24-word disclaimer on its work identifying it as such. The designation caused the site to lose most of its advertising dollars, so the newsroom turned to its readers to keep them afloat.
But now, sweeping economic sanctions against Russia have made it nearly impossible to send money out of the country, and the newsroom has lost funding from 30,000 members based there.
Russia recently blocked access to Meduza's website as Putin signed a law threatening journalists with up to 15 years in prison for using words such as "war" and "invasion" to describe Moscow's actions in Ukraine. The former Soviet power has also blocked Facebook and Twitter, making it even more difficult for Russians to access non-state-sponsored information about the war.
But despite the Kremlin's attempts to censor Meduza, the news site's mobile app is still currently accessible in Russia.
"Russians need to have information about what their government is doing and at the moment, they can’t do that if not for independent newsrooms such as Meduza," said Leon Fryszer, publisher of the crowdfunded German news outlet Krautreporter, which is helping Meduza with its campaign.
For Fryszer, supporting the Latvia-based newsroom feels like the least he can do to ensure the Russian people, many of whom are opposed to Putin's invasion and have publicly protested the war at great risk to themselves, obtain reliable information.
"I also care in terms of making sure there’s a path forward for Russia and that there’s a chance that one day democracy will see the light of day again," he said. "That’s quite significant for us as Europeans."
“I think there needs to be a counterforce to what the Kremlin is doing now, and Meduza has a good chance at being that," Fryszer added.
HuffPost reporter Ryan Grenoble contributed reporting.