Open Letter in Support of Independent Russian Journalists
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March 29th, 2022

Dear President of the European Parliament, dear President of the European Commission, dear President of the European Council, dear Members of the European Parliament, dear Commissioners,

In response to Vladimir Putin’s violent invasion of Ukraine, the world’s attention has mainly been focused on supporting Ukrainian resistance and finding ways to undermine Russia’s economic and political power in order to incapacitate Russian military funding and prevent further escalation of the conflict. While truly admirable in their prompt and decisive united reaction, Western governments and businesses seem to have forgotten and literally turned their backs on one critically important group of people: independent Russian journalists speaking against Putin’s regime and committed to reporting the truth about the war.

In the past few days, all independent Russian media outlets who refused to stop covering Putin’s attack on Ukraine and continued using the words “war” and “invasion”, have been blocked in Russia. This means that pretty much 100% of independent Russian-language media have now either completely stopped working or can only be accessed via VPN or e-mail newsletters. Foreign news services have also stopped reporting from Russia, as the new censorship law hastily passed by the Russian Duma means writing about the war can result in up to 15 years in prison sentences for their correspondents. After Russia has broken her ties with many international organizations, it’s being suggested that capital punishment may be reintroduced all across its vast territory.

Thousands of Russians who are against Putin and the war are fleeing Russia while it is still possible, including hundreds and hundreds of journalists, creative content creators and human rights activists. Many of them weren’t staff members but worked free lance for independent Russian and international media, which have either shut down or possess insufficient funds to sustain all their former collaborators in exile. Since Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have made it impossible to process payments via Russian accounts, a growing number of these talented brave Russians have been left to their own devices without any means to find shelter or food.

To make matters worse, many of them have nowhere to go where they could continue living and working in safety. Russian journalists who risk their freedom and sometimes even their lives in fighting against the war are not welcome in Western European countries, the US or Canada. The lucky ones who manage to escape end up in Armenia or Turkey, where they are allowed to enter without a visa. Some will flee to the West with a tourist visa without any prospects of legal work or support, their credit cards cancelled.

For many years, I used to work as a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty’s Russian Service. Since today, Radio Free Liberty’s Moscow office is closed and the head of the Russian Service Andrey Shary told me he is doing his best to save many of their reporters. It would be wonderful if individual journalists were given visas or special status and some kind of housing and financial support in the EU, so that they could continue working, he told me.

There is so much work to be done and so many Russian journalists ready to work, once they are given a chance to survive.

The world desperately needs these people in what is essentially an informational war, Putin’s war on truth and integrity.

It is high time that the EU includes the following measures in their refugee relief efforts:

  • Provide work visas/special status and housing/ financial aid/ scholarships to independent Russian journalists and human rights activists (for example, upon presenting a letter of recommendation from their editor-in-chief or head of human rights organization); it is important that this legal and financial assistance is provided to the journalists and their families individually and not to their media outlets as organizations;
  • Assist in setting up a fund for supporting independent Russian-language media (operating both in and outside Russia); assist in finding creative solutions to ensure funding can reach reporters working in Russia;

The following three independent news outlets currently continue reporting from Russia using private donations. Most of them simultaneously serve as support hubs for victims of political prosecution, provide legal advice and technical hacks to get around censorship blockades. It’s fair to say that without these resources, there will remain no verified reporting from within Russia and no internal support for those speaking up against the war in Ukraine and Putin’s regime in general.

The independent media below also accept donations in cryptocurrencies.

Based in Russia

Mediazona https://zona.media/

OVD Info https://ovdinfo.org/

DOXA Journal https://news.doxajournal.ru/

Based in Latvia (reporting both in Russian and English)

Meduza https://meduza.io/

Insider https://theins.ru/

Should you have any further questions or need direct contacts with independent Russian journalists, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am currently setting up a Discord server where you can individually support independent Russian journalists and they can help each other:

RussianPiE (short for Russian Press in Exile)

Yours,

Sophia Kornienko

independent Russian-Dutch journalist and media artist

former Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty correspondent

Twitter @sophiakornienko

Discord kornienko#1489

I fully align myself with the statement:

Andrei Shary, journalist

Andrej Malgin, journalist, blogger

Roman Dobrokhotov, editor-in-chief, The Insider

Laura Starink, journalist

Helga Salemon, journalist, commentator and researcher, The Netherlands

Tatyana Simakova, editor-in-chief, The Village, Russia

Kirill Martynov, deputy editor, Novaya Gazeta

Timothy Snyder, historian, United States

Dmitry Volchek, journalist and publisher

Pavel Kanygin, journalist

Elena Fanailova, journalist

Mikhail Sokolov, journalist

Tatiana Voltskaya, poet, journalist

Maria Erman, editor, Berlin

Fabrice Nodé-Langlois, Le Figaro (former Moscow correspondent, 2006-2009)

Madeleine Leroyer, filmmaker, France

Ekaterina Martynova, journalist, DOXA

Elizaveta Kirpanova, journalist, Novaya Gazeta

Dmitry Vrubel, Artist, Berlin

Irina Borogan, journalist

Michail Trepashkin, lawyer, journalist,  Russia

Ekaterina Margolis, artist, writer, Venice, Italy

Estelle Robin You, filmmaker, Les films du balibari www.balibari.com, France

Tue Steen Müller, filmmaker, Film Consultant & Critic, www.filmkommentaren.dk, Denmark

Yuri Averof, producer, Anemon Productions www.anemon.gr, Greece

Tuki Jencquel, documentary filmmaker, Hamburg, Germany

Olympia Mytilinaiou, cinematographer www.olympiamytilinaiou.com, Greece

Kristina Petrasova, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The Netherlands

Michael Janovitski, independent journalist, media researcher, The Netherlands

Sergey Ponomarev, photojournalist

Natalie Sablowski, Journalist

Yury Veksler, journalist, Berlin

Daria Serenko journalist, fem and antiwar activist

Sergei Nikitin, human rights defender (Head of Amnesty International Russia 2003-2017)

Alexander Plyushchev, journalist

Melanie Bachina, journalist

Ivan Preobrazhensky, independent political analyst, journalist, Prague

Victor Muchnik, journalist

Dinah Zeldin, freelance writer, Montreal, Canada

Andrei Soldatov, editor, Agentura.ru, London, UK

Lola Tagaeva, journalist, editor, founder of GT

Hanneke de Munck, artist, The Netherlands

Sietse H. Bakker, artist, The Netherlands

Arnold van Bruggen, journalist, The Netherlands

Rob Hornstra, photographer, The Netherlands

Joop IJisberg, retired publisher, The Netherlands

Cecilia Hendrikx, designer, The Netherlands

Anne Stoffel, translator Russian-Dutch, The Netherlands

Irina Leifer, curator, The Netherlands

Vladimir Riabokon, poet, former journalist Deutsche Welle

Theo Maarten van Lint, Professor of Armenian Studies, University of Oxford, UK

Sander ‘t Sas, journalist, The Netherlands

Aliona van der Horst, independent documentary film director, The Netherlands

Otto Boele, Senior Lecturer Russian Literature, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Kris van der Veen, politicus, The Netherlands

Leonid Martynyuk, political writer and analyst, USA

Chris Bakker, pastor, The Netherlands

Jelena Stefanovic, designer, The Netherlands

George Weiss, NGO worker, The Netherlands

Peter Vermeersch, Professor of Politics, University of Leuven, Belgium

Wim Hendrikx, peace lover and truth supporter, The Netherlands

Eva Cukier, journalist, The Netherlands

Natalia Gevorkyan, journalist

Machteld Roede, human biologist, Maastricht

Olga Pasternak, journalist

Ilonka Verdurmen, poetry teacher

Ellen Rutten, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, University of Amsterdam

Eva Rovers, author and democracy activist, The Netherlands

Yula Altchouler, independent documentary producer, The Netherlands

Dyveke Rood, art historian, The Netherlands

Marc Dahmen, Marketing strategist, The Netherlands

Kirill Romanenko, Entrepreneur, Germany

Rob Hornstra, Independent photographer, The Netherlands

Yvette Nieuwstad, Freelance Researcher TV, The Netherlands

Adinda Akkermans, journalist, The Netherlands

Sasha Ourikh, researcher Film en TV, the Netherlands

Emmie Kollau, journalist, The Netherlands

Masha Novikova, filmmaker, The Netherlands

Pavel Havliček, political analyst and writer, Czech Republic

Anneke Wardenbach, freelance journalist based in Amsterdam

Edwin Gardner, futurist, Amsterdam

Nigina Beroeva, journalist

Mustafa Kuleli, journalist

Anton Pavlovskiy, SMM, The Village, Russia

Baris Altintas, journalist, Freeweb Turkey

Dima Barchenkov, journalist, film director, Russia

Irina Zarayskaya, producer, TV Rain, Russia

Igor Pomerantsev, journalist

Yuriy Davydov, film director, director of photography, TV RAIN Russia

Dmitry Simanovsky, translator, journalist

Natalia Shkourenok. journalist, Russia

Maria Romeyko-Gurko, producer, journalist, Russia

Sana Valiulina, writer, The Netherlands

Edwin Trommelen, filmmaker, Amsterdam

Anna Eckold, photographer, teacher, Berlin, Germany

Nina Targan Mouravi, artist, translator, writer, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ivana Ivković, political philosopher, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Steven Derix, journalist, former correspondent NRC Handelsblad in Moscow (2014-2020)

Alina Kneepkens, director, writer, Belgium

Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Brussels

Hella Rottenberg, journalist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Geert Groot Koerkamp, journalist, The Netherlands

Maria Govorun, science officer, journalist, Prague, Czech Republic

While collecting the above signatures, I have received a few additional points contributed by my colleagues that I would like to sum up in this postscript:

  • There is serious need for a European holding/ media structure that would finance several Russian-language media outlets (television, multimedia internet publications, possibly even traditional radio) providing high quality journalistic coverage and analysis to Russian speaking audiences across the globe. These media headquarters can be based in several European countries and can employ those Russian journalists who refuse to work under the conditions of censorship in Russia thus providing a legal status for them and their families in Europe;
  • Also, to counter proliferation of disinformation, a second path to follow would be  to launch high standard local Russian-language publications in major European cities with large Russian-language diasporas. The same publications can also provide legal advice, translation and advertisement services to gain traction. Scandinavian newspapers (the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat, Swedish Dagens Nyheter and the Danish Politiken) have already declared that they will be publishing news in Russian.
  • In view of the dangers independent Russian journalists are facing in Russia it is essential to provide them with urgent escape routes now, but also consider their potential for Europe's war on disinformation in the long run (they can be temporarily employed by European newsrooms in the framework of EU-financed grant schemes);
  • In parallel to creating new Russian-language media outlets and providing financial support to the already existing independent Russian media (such as Mediazona, OVD Info, Doxa Journal, The Insider, Meduza, The Village), there is a demand for more think tanks whose main task would be debunking Russian disinformation attacks (a great example is the analytical center https://www.debunkeu.org/ in Lithuania);   The danger that independent Russian journalists face in Russia as well as the danger that Russian disinformation and Russia's war on truth poses to the world are not to be taken lightly. It is high time for action, limiting the spread of RT or Sputnik TV is definitely not enough.

This short animation is the logo reveal of my Discord server called Russian PiE (Russian Press in Exile), a safe space I have created for independent Russian journalists to find (mutual) support. 100% of the sales will go directly to independent Russian journalists speaking up against the Russian aggression in Eastern Europe!

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