Russian liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy shuts down over Ukraine coverage

Moscow: Ekho Moskvy, a liberal radio station and one of Russia’s leading media outlets, has been taken off the air over its critical coverage of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, the head of the radio station said on Thursday.

Alexey Venediktov, the radio station’s Editor-in-Chief and one of Russia’s most prominent journalists, wrote on Telegram that higher-ranking people earlier had hinted to him that such a decision was under consideration.

“The Ekho Moskvy board of directors has decided by a majority to close down the Ekho Moskvy radio channel and the website, he said.

The press service of the Gazprom Media holding has confirmed the information to Russia’s state-run news agency TASS.

Venediktov told TASS that he planned to hold a meeting of the radio station’s journalistic staff later in the day.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office earlier demanded that access to the Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Dozhd (or Rain) TV channel (designated in Russia as a foreign agent media outlet) be restricted because of their coverage of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Having considered the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office’s order to limit access to the Ekho Moskvy media outlet, the board of directors of the Ekho Moskvy closed joint-stock company made a decision on March 3 to close down the media outlet, including the Ekho Moskvy radio channel and the digital news outlet of the same name, the report said.

The US State Department has criticised Russia for engaging in a “full assault on media freedom” and its efforts to “suppress the truth of the brutal invasion”.

The outlets were baselessly accused of calling for extremist activity and violence and sharing deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel in Ukraine, Spokesperson for the US Department of State Ned Price said in a statement.

Russia’s government is also throttling Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms that tens of millions of Russia’s citizens rely on to access independent information and opinions and to connect with each other and the outside world, it said.

“The people of Russia also have a right to know about the human costs of this senseless war to their own soldiers. We call upon Putin and his government to honor Russia’s international obligations and commitments, to immediately cease this bloodshed, withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory, and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of their own citizens,” it added.

The past year has seen an unprecedented crackdown on independent and critical voices in Russia that only intensified after the start of the attack on Ukraine.

Russia rejects the term invasion, says its actions are not designed to occupy territory but to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists – a pretext rejected by Ukraine and the West as baseless propaganda.

Russian media outlets have been instructed to only publish information provided by official sources, which describe the attack as a military operation.

Russian lawmakers will reportedly consider a bill on Friday providing for up to 15 years in prison for any publication of “fake news” concerning the Russian armed forces.

Ekho Mosvky – which is majority-owned by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom – was founded in 1990 during the final days of the Soviet Union. It had established itself as one of the country’s leading liberal media outlets.

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