NewsRussian journalists face stringent censorship under Kremlin's war directives

Russian journalists face stringent censorship under Kremlin's war directives

Retrieving bodies after the Russian attack. This won't be shown in Russia.
Retrieving bodies after the Russian attack. This won't be shown in Russia.
Images source: © PAP | Mykola Kalyeniak
Mateusz Kaluga

16 June 2024 20:01

Russian materials about the war in Ukraine are subject to exceptional censorship. Former employees of pro-Kremlin media reveal that editors-in-chief receive guidelines from the authorities. New information was provided by Biełsat TV, citing the Russian-language Vot Tak, which spoke with former media employees.

Even before the war broke out, the media had little to do with freedom and objectivity. As Biełsat writes, some materials deviated from the course set by the Kremlin. Everything changed in February 2022.

Shortly after the war broke out, a ban on criticising the army and spreading false information about it appeared in Russia.

By publishing any other information, the editorial staff risked criminal proceedings being initiated against the medium. Later, the presidential administration began sending "methodical" instructions to the media – special guidelines on how to report on the war. They contain information on how to present certain topics important to the Russian authorities, reads the Biełsat portal.

Rigid guidelines for journalists in Russia

Russian editorial offices were instructed to write about the war in Ukraine in the following way: "The conflict in Ukraine was provoked by Western countries, which supplied weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine was supposed to become a bridgehead for an attack on Russia. The strategic goal of the collective West toward Russia has not changed for several centuries – it is to restrain, weaken, dismember, and completely destroy Russia."

The Kremlin required mentioning the fight against atheists, rapists, villains, and murderers.

We received some information from above, but without specifics; it was not entirely clear what topics could be touched upon, what and how to show. We tried to do everything as carefully as possible, avoiding anything sensational. There were many meetings where all these sensational topics were discussed – for example, the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol, says the Vot Tak interlocutor.

According to journalists, it was only possible to report on how local authorities were solving problems or on some scandals "that had already spread on Telegram channels." Negative opinions about the country were poorly received. It was forbidden to describe the stories of families of fallen soldiers, and the soldiers themselves were to be praised.

This is how Russian propaganda works

We had to show all the blunders of the Ukrainian authorities, strange statements of foreign politicians that could be twisted or ambiguously interpreted. Any problems with equipment supplies: that there might not be enough money, someone might veto the delivery of this equipment – all of this had to be reported, as well as every quarrel within the Ukrainian government – says another Vot Tak employee.

When Western equipment appeared on the front, journalists had to show materials about the destruction of Leopards and Abrams. Additionally, media working on the battlefield can only film where the Ministry of Defence allows.

Recently, the Russian propaganda machine has taken up the subject of Zelensky's illegitimacy as president, leading a negative narrative aimed at the peace summit in Switzerland. In internal politics, the main topics are new social policy programmes announced by Putin after starting his new presidential term, demonstrating economic successes, and "national unity."

According to the recommendations of Roskomnadzor, the word "war" cannot be used. Variants such as "troop entry" and "military actions" are allowed. The expression "Russian-Ukrainian conflict" can also be used, explains a former employee of Kommersant.

- If Putin or Zelensky use this word, journalists cannot replace it; it must be left in the quote. Although even in quotes, this word did not start appearing immediately, but after a long time, writes Biełsat.

Since the beginning of the war, all materials have been edited according to the principle that it is "better to say too little than exaggerate."

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