Novy Mir

A Guide to Russian Media in the Times of Total Censorship

Yulia Balakhonova with Mikhail Rubin, Roman Badanin, Katya Arenina and other Proekt’s authors, August 15, 2022

We talk in detail about how the war and repressions transformed the Russian media: why independent media outlets didn’t lose their audience despite blocking; the salary hikes that the authorities had to offer their spin doctors; and how censorship works in the private media.

Русская версия

1. How the Russian Media Scattered Around the World

2. How Much Money the Media Lost Because of the War

3. How the Editorial Teams Survive War-time Censorship

4. Why Employees Are Deserting the Propaganda Media

By the early 2021, the employees of the Presidential Administration were given a new responsibility –– deciding which of the journalists would be included in the list of foreign agents. Officially, this is the job of the Ministry of Justice, but in practice, the issue was so important to the country’s authorities even then, that it was assigned to the subordinates of Sergey Kiriyenko, a very influential associate of Vladimir Putin, the first deputy head of his Administration, tasked with overseeing all the domestic policies. By the end of 2021, the officials had a lot to be proud of –– 23 media outlets and 40 journalists were declared to be foreign agents, while one editorial team, that of the Project, was named an “undesirable organisation.”

It could seem that year 2021 was the darkest in the history of Russia’s free journalism. But few could imagine what would happen in 2022.

Offshore Journalism

In the fall of 2021, a prominent attorney Ilya Novikov was probably the first to coin the term “offshore journalism” that would later be used to describe a whole phenomenon. The lawyer used it to describe editorial offices that were forced to leave Russia . By mid-2022, almost all independent Russian journalism has become an “offshore” one. The fate of this term’s author had undergone a no less dramatic transformation — Novikov, who lives in Ukraine, joined the territorial defence forces to protect his new homeland from the Russian military.

Early morning on February 24, Tikhon Dzyadko, the editor-in-chief of Dozhd TV, was getting into a taxi to go to the studio. It was at that very moment that Vladimir Putin announced the start of the war. “Just recently, my wife and I watched a TV show where a media manager was constantly nauseous from stress, and we laughed at the premise, but at that moment, when I heard about attack on Ukraine, I felt a terrible nausea, ” says Dzyadko. NAn hour and a half later, “Dozhd” will begin its first broadcast about the war and will switch to round-the-clock schedule. By the noon of the first day of the war, Dziadko would receive a call from Roskomnadzor, asking him “to only present verified information”, “to which I replied that we do, from all sides” . Just a few days later, Dozhd would be shut down.

Farewell broadcast of the Dozhd TV channel, March 3, 2022

“It was clear that the media that decide to cover the war don’t have much time. This is a sprint. How much will we manage to publish before they slam us?” says the former Politics Editor at Novaya Gazeta Kirill Martynov who currently heads Novaya Gazeta.Europe.

Novaya Gazeta held out for slightly more than a month after the start of war. The Echo of Moscow radio station that had previously been on air for more than 30 years suffered a much swifter blow. On February 28, its editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov got a call from the Presidential Administration. The officials were outraged by the broadcast of Ukrainian journalist Vitaly Portnikov who said that if Putin decides to drop a nuclear bomb, Russia should expect a retaliatory strike . Next day, the radio station was blocked by Roskomnadzor, and soon after, it was completely shut down by its owner Gazprom Media.

Which media ceased to exist ↓

Many journalists from the closed media began to evacuate abroad, either in organised groups or individually. The Project’s calculations show that at least 504 journalists have left Russia over the past year, most of them after the outbreak of the war on February 24.

Survey of the editorial staff of Russian and foreign media outlets working in Russia. The survey took into account relocations of editorial staff since July 2021 and opening of new offices outside of Russia. Places where at least five employees of the same editorial office work are marked.

Люди Путина в “Газпроме”

Как росло число людей, связанных с Путиным, в совете директоров “Газпрома”:

1999 — 1

Герман Греф
первый замминистра госимущества. Работал с Путиным в мэрии Санкт-Петербурга. Был назначен в “Газпром” с приходом Путина к власти

Арнгольт Беккер
президент ОАО “Стройтрансгаз”

Рем Вяхирев
председатель совета директоров “Газпрома”

Фарит Газизуллин
зампред правительства, министр госимущества

Владимир Малин
первый зампред Российского фонда федерального имущества

Лев Миронов
глава профсоюза работников нефтяной, газовой отраслей промышленности и строительства

Виктор Тарасов
президент НПФ “Газфонд”, председатель правления Газпромбанка

Виктор Черномырдин
бывший председатель правительства

Вячеслав Шеремет
зампред правления “Газпрома”

Игорь Шувалов
глава Российского фонда федерального имущества

Виктор Щугорев
гендиректор “Астраханьгазпром”

2002 — 5

Герман Греф
первый замминистра госимущества

Алексей Миллер
председатель правления “Газпрома”, работал с Путиным в комитете по внешним связям мэрии Петербурга

Михаил Середа
глава аппарата правления “Газпрома”, бывший заместитель Миллера в Балтийской трубопроводной системе

Дмитрий Медведев
В 90-х работал в комитете по внешним связям мэрии Санкт-Петербурга, председателем которого являлся Путин. С приходом Путина стал председателем совета директоров “Газпрома

Илья Южанов
министр по антимонопольной политике и поддержке предпринимательства, работал в мэрии Петербурга в одно время с Путиным

Александр Ананенков
зампред правления “Газпрома”

Буркхард Бергманн
глава немецкой компании Ruhrgas AG

Фарит Газизуллин
министр имущественных отношений

Александра Левицкая
первый замруководителя аппарата правительства

Борис Федоров
представитель миноритарных акционеров “Газпрома”

Виктор Христенко
зампред правительства

10 марта 2022 — 6

Алексей Миллер
председатель правления “Газпрома”, работал с Путиным в комитете по внешним связям мэрии Петербурга

Михаил Середа
глава аппарата правления “Газпрома”

Андрей Акимов
председатель правления “Газпромбанка”. Предположительно служил в КГБ в одно время с Путиным, работал в Швейцарии, и Австрии под прикрытием вместе с будущими коллегами по структурам “Газпрома” Александром Медведевым и Еленой Бурмистровой

Виктор Зубков
глава совета директоров “Газпрома”. Бывший премьер-министр, бывший зам Путина в комитете по внешним связям мэрии Петербурга. Среди прочих заслуг именно Зубков договаривался о выделении земли для строительства кооператива “Озеро”, где была дача Путина

Тимур Кулибаев
глава совета директоров “Газпрома”. Бывший премьер-министр, бывший зам Путина в комитете по внешним связям мэрии Петербурга. Среди прочих заслуг именно Зубков договаривался о выделении земли для строительства кооператива “Озеро”, где была дача Путина

Денис Мантуров
министр промышленности и торговли, давний партнер друга Путина Сергея Чемезова

Виталий Маркелов
зампред правления “Газпрома”

Виктор Мартынов
ректор РГУ нефти и газа имени Губкина

Владимир Мау
ректор РАНХиГС

Александр Новак
зампред правительства

Николай Шульгинов
министр энергетики

Кроме того, в руководство “Газпрома” (правление и менеджмент важнейших дочерних предприятий) за время президентства Владимира Путина попало множество выходцев из спецслужб, бывших коллег, знакомых и даже родственников главы государства. Среди них:

Михаил Путин
зампред правления “Газпрома”, двоюродный племянник президента России, психиатр по образовани

Елена Бурмистрова
зампред правления “Газпрома”, прежде работала в Вене в компании IMAG вместе с Андреем Акимовым, выходцем из советских спецслужб, знакомым Путина.

Сергей Хомяков
директор службы безопасности “Газпрома”, бывший сотрудник ФСБ.

Сергей Ушаков — предшественник Хомякова на должности директора службы безопасности “Газпрома”, с 1986 года руководил подразделениями КГБ и ФСБ в Санкт-Петербурге, с января 2007 г. — первый замдиректора Федеральной службы охраны. С 2007 по 2012 — советник президента России.

Валерий Голубев
бывший зампред правления “Газпрома”, сослуживец Путина по КГБ. Во время работы в “Газпроме” становился героем журналистских расследований о многомиллиардной коррупции.

Александр Дюков
предправления и гендиректор “Газпром нефть”. В конце 90-х работал с Миллером в Морском порту Петербурга, который в то время контролировался малышевской преступной группировкой, с которой в свою очередь имел связи президент Путин.

Александр Медведев
в 2002—2019 гг. гендиректор “Газпром экспорта». С 2014 по 2019 год — зампред правления ‘Газпрома’. В 90-х годах работал в Австрии и Швейцарии вместе с Акимовым. Согласно публикациям западных СМИ, являлся штатным агентом КГБ.

Юрий Шамалов
президент НПФ “Газфонд”. Старший сын совладельца банка “Россия” Николая Шамалова, старший брат бывшего зятя Путина Николая Шамалова.

Ярослав Голко
первый вице-президент Газпромбанка, член правления “Газпрома” с 2007 по 2014 годы — ближайший знакомый и бизнес-партнер Валерия Голубева, сослуживца Путина по КГБ.

Маттиас Варниг
управляющий директор Nord Stream AG, компании, занимающейся эксплуатацией газопровода “Северный поток”. Бывший кадровый сотрудник министерства государственной безопасности ГДР (“Штази”), с тех пор знаком с Путиным.

Александр Кузнецов
генеральный директор ООО “Газпром комплектация”, зять Марии Ентальцевой — гражданской супруги Алексея Миллера

Юрий Горох
заместитель руководителя аппарата правления ОАО “Газпром”, личный охранник Алексея Миллера

Roman Anin, the editor-in-chief of Important Stories, who was forced to leave Russia back in 2021, remembers how his colleagues who were urgently fleeing the country right after the war spent nine hours at the ground exit/entry point at the border with one of the Baltic countries. They were waiting outside, in the cold, with no access to bathroom or food: “They didn’t know whether they’d be allowed to go or whether they’d be arrested right then and there because their media calls the war what it is.” The staffers of most prominent media outlets evacuated in much the same way. Very few staff contributors are left in Russia, mostly those who couldn’t leave for personal reasons .

Isolated regional media, such as a small Siberian website People of Baikal, also stayed put. The outlet’s editor Elena Trifonova says that almost everyone remained in Russia, but that “life is uneasy.” The website’s journalist was detained at soldier funerals and summoned to the FSB. The heroine of one of the texts reported the journalists to the Prosecutor’s Office after the publication. The site has been blocked by Roskomnadzor. The journalists avoid using the word “war, ” but always put “special operation” in quotation marks.

In this context, the survival chances of the remaining media are quite low. On July 12, Alexander Bayanov, the founder –– now, a former one –– of Taiga.Info, Siberia’s another independent media, posted on Facebook that he’s leaving his position and the country: “The project has been disrupted and destroyed.” On March 1, the outlet’s website was blocked. On the same day, the media’s editor-in-chief Vasily Volnukhin informed the staff of his resignation . The remaining staff decided to cover only regional and economic news, simply removing the subject of war from their agenda, even scrapping old stories from the site. The media outlet lost almost all its advertisers and traffic was reduced five-fold .

Emigration was only the beginning of the new world –– the editorial teams had to find new economic models and establish new principles of audience engagement. Even the journalists’ daily needs had changed.

The advertising model is practically disabled –– the largest international advertisers have left the market, while domestic advertisers have no desire to work with the outlawed media. For example, in the first weeks of the war, advertising at The Bell, an independent business media that was trying to use advertising model to support itself, fell by 80-90% . The levels of crowdfunding have also fallen drastically –– the Russian bank cards are blocked for transfers abroad , plus few are ready for possible prosecution for support of the outlawed journalists. For example, Mediazona lost more than 70% of reader donations . The income of video content-based media has also fallen dramatically, albeit for other reasons –– back in March, YouTube cancelled all types of monetisation (advertising, sponsorship, etc.) for its Russian segment, and while sponsor integrations remain, they are also suffering cutbacks thanks to the economic downturn and advertisers’ exit from the market .

As a result, the non-profit model has proven to be the most desirable, and demand for institutional donor grants has grown exponentially. The Project spoke to five major international donors who work with the Russian media and civil society. They estimate that since the start of the year the number of grant applications from journalists has grown three-fold, while the aggregate amount of issued grants has grown by 40-50% . The number of organisations engaged in this work has also grown: today, there are between seven and 10 such funds, while previously their number was between five and seven.

All the polled organisations note that the nature of assistance requests has also changed –– today, relocation costs and legal paperwork have become the main source of expenses. In some cases, the grantees request assistance in buying new computers because their old ones were seized by the Russian law enforcement. In one case, an émigré journalist requested assistance “literally for purchase of food because he was left completely destitute” .

Another problem is content distribution. According to the joint calculations of the Mass Media Defence Centre, since the beginning of war, Roskomnadzor has blocked 95 sources of information that were working either in Russia or abroad but targeted the Russian audience.

From the beginning of the war until the end of July, Roskomnadzor blocked at least 95 information resources operating in Russia

Number of blocked resources by month, 2022. Included are media outlets, aggregators, and news resources; mirrors of websites were not taken into account.

Nonetheless, few of them have suspended their operations . Moreover, the audience of the exiled and blocked media has grown substantially.

The growth was especially active in the first month of the war. The audience grew despite the blocking and banning of Instagram and Facebook, social networks important for the promotion of journalistic materials . Prior to the war, the website of Novaya Gazeta had 12-13 mln monthly visitors, but in February and March these numbers had jumped to 23 and 32 mln respectively13. The website of Mediazona also had record visitor numbers: in March, the media had over 4 mln readers .

But then Dozhd, Echo Moskvy and Novaya Gazeta were shut down, which resulted in a 15% decrease in the audience of independent media — in the five months following the war, the total visits to the websites of the 14 most prominent independent media outlets were 75 million compared with 88.6 million in the five months prior to the war. If you do not take into account the shut-down websites, it turns out that the number of visits to the surviving media websites has increased by 32% since February 24 (from an average of 34.4 million visits per month to 45.6 million).

Changes in the audience of independent media websites

The ranking includes the main independent socio-political media outlets (with the exception of the websites of Echo of Moscow, Dozhd, and Novaya Gazeta, which have not been updated for a long time due to their closure). Presented is a comparison of the data on visits to the websites over two periods: September 2021-January 2022, and February-June 2022.

In dinamic

Millions of visits to sites in total

Growth in percent. Comparison of data on visits to sites for two periods: September 2021 — January 2022 and February-June 2022





Proekt and Agentstvo




The Insider








The Bell


The Village


Data: Similarweb

At the same time, independent media outlets are showing rapid growth in their audiences on the social networks available to Russians. From February to the end of June, the number of subscribers of independent media on Telegram has increased the most — by 219% in total across 16 media outlets. For example, “Meduza” has increased its number of regular readers by 153% (to 1.3 million on three channels), and “Mediazona” — by 152% (to 207 thousand).

The growth in the number of subscribers to the Telegram channels of independent media outlets

The ranking includes the most popular media channels that can be considered independent, with the exception of human rights projects. For media outlets that have more than one channel, the figures were summed up.

In dinamic

Millions of subscribers in total

Percentage increase, February 23 to July 1



Ostorozhno, novosti








Proekt and Agentstvо


The Village


Meduza — LIVE, Meduza — all news and Signal




Mozhem Obyasnit




The Insider






The Bell and The Bell.News



In addition to Telegram, YouTube was also showing growth in the first months of the war — this was facilitated by the fact that many independent journalists who lost their media turned the video service into their principal platform. This was done, for example, by the hosts and regular talking heads of the Echo of Moscow radio station and Dozhd TV  . As a result, the number of subscribers to the 12 independent news channels on YouTube has grown by an average of 43%. The Khodorkovsky Live channel showed the most growth — by 1415% (from 36,000 in February to 547,000 in June. The channel’s viewership rose roughly 1.8 times, from 83 million in February to 148 million in June). Dozhd’s subscriber count also went up (by 12%), even though it was closed and was not broadcasting for most of the period. The largest independent bloggers also increased their audiences — on average, 16 bloggers have gained 15% more subscribers. For example, interviewer Ekaterina Gordeyeva has her audience by 760,000 people (from 430,000 subscribers in February to 1,190,000 in June).

The growth of YouTube channels’ audience

Percentage subscriber growth from February to June 2022. The ranking includes the most popular blogger and media channels with an audience of over 100,000 subscribers as of June 2022. The channels Popular Politics, Zhivoy Gvozd, and Khodorkovsky LIVE, which have a large audience, were not included in the ranking because they began broadcasting after the war began.






Novaya gazeta












Ekaterina Gordeeva


Michael Nacke


Alexandr Plushev


Yulia Latynina


Yevgenia Albats


Alexander Nevzorov


Nadezhda Streletz


Artemy Lebedev


Nikolay Solodnikov


Ilya Varlamov


Kseniya Sobchak


Irina Shikhman


The Ludi


Yuriy Dud'


Leonid Parfenov


Maksim Shevchenko



But the trend gradually began to change. By late spring the YouTube audience had dropped , and so did the traffic to the media websites. Meduza had 48.5 million hits in March, 31.8 million in April, and just 22 million in June. The decline in the propaganda media is comparable. The RIA Novosti website was visited 262 million times in March and 153 million times in June. The interviewed editors-in-chief of the media outlets suggested that the reason might have been “readers getting tired of news from the front lines.”

Born During the War

But even in such trying circumstances, several new media projects were launched. Their creators say that their decision was forced by their country’s unleashing of the unjust war.

Ilya Krasilshchik, the former Meduza publisher, created HelpDesk. For now, this media comes out on social media –– Instagram and Telegram –– and has a bot where users can talk about the problems engendered by their anti-war position. The money for launch was found with the help of the North Base Media investment firm , the legal entity was registered in Latvia.

Philipp Bakhtin, the former editor-in-chief of Esquire, who’s been living in Estonia for the last few years, launched Re-post. He was offered the money by a non-profit financed by the Swedish media group Bonnier News and Norwegian newspaper group Amedia. For now, the media’s website features an aggregator of news headlines from other media outlets –– with the editorial team’s opinion inserted. This opinion must “succinctly explain the meaning and impact of the news story.”

Journalist Lola Tagaeva founded Verstka (Layout). “The project was born spontaneously, without any special preparation and money, as reaction to the destruction of Russian media, ” says Tagaeva. She hopes that Verstka will be able to produce “sharply-worded” social content and investigative journalism.

Similar problems are covered by another small media that was launched after the war, Cherta (Threshold). “Right away, we began to write about the war and people at war –– it’s not just the soldiers or civilians under fire, but also families and relatives who also live through this experience, ” explains Cherta’s editor-in-chief Ilya Panin.

For now, the aggregate audience of the new media projects is only about 230,000 people .

Another forced innovation can be found in distributed editorial offices. Many teams are separated by borders and distances: for example, The Insider’s team is scattered between 10 countries and its full staff meetings can only be held in the virtual space . Emergency relocation has also impacted the journalists’ emotional state, and many require psychotherapy . Irregular income has forced some of them to master new professions: one of the journalists says that after moving to Turkey, she edited the texts during daytime, and walked other people’s dogs in the evening to have at least some cash.

How the Foreign Media Left Russia

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Faux Journalism

On February 24, hours after the start of aggression against Ukraine, an open letter against the war signed by a group of Russian journalists was published online. The letter was written by Kommersant’s special correspondent Elena Chernenko. On the same day, Chernenko and several journalists in the Foreign Ministry press pool who also signed the letter were removed from the said group. This decision was made by Maria Zakharova, the Ministry’s spokeswoman .

Admittedly, the authors soon redacted their letter online . Chernenko continued to work at Kommersant, where censorship, albeit less restrictive, existed long before the war.

“It has become much harder to work. It’s not just about the use of the word ‘war, ’ it’s about the overall tone of publications. If the text is too critical and contains even a hint that things have become worse in some sphere because of the ‘special operation, ’ it might not see the light at all. There is a full block on texts related to the servicemen, the wounded, and the killed, on stories about their families, ” says a journalist at Kommersant. “Everyone is very despondent. The newsroom, which used to be full of people and noise, is now quiet like a cemetery, ” adds another journalist who works there.

The interview with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who spoke in late March to a group of Russian journalists, proved to be a real ordeal for the editorial team. The group of journalists included the long-time Kommersant staff writer Vladimir Soloviev. Neither the interview, nor the text written on its basis were ever published. A source at the newspaper claims that up to the last minute the Kommersant’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Zhelonkin allegedly expressed the readiness to publish Zelensky’s words. However, after a harsh demand from Roskomnadzor, the management’s position had changed . Following February 24, the newspaper practically ceased publishing interviews with Ukrainian or international officials .

Zelensky’s interview with Russian journalists. Kommersant columnist Vladimir Solovyov is on the right in the top row.

Nonetheless, none of the journalists working at Kommersant and interviewed by the Project could recall an instance of their colleagues resigning after the start of the war.

As for the war itself, Kommersant practically ceased covering it. It’s impossible to glean even some idea of military developments from reading the daily newspaper. RBC covers the war in much the same way. “We are forced to write about current developments using only the official sources, and since that’s quite meaningless, we write very little, ” explains the reporter for Russia’s largest private media holding. They regularly must bend over backwards to write something: for example, when the Russian army bombed the shopping mall in Kremenchug, RBC reported that missiles hit the city centre, but didn’t specify whose missiles they were In addition to the wartime censorship imposed by the authorities, RBC has some proprietary know-how. In particular, the editorial board advised the staff to cite news coming from “foreign agents” as little as possible. . “Such news stories don’t get published, but if they are too important, we try to find a way [to publish them] without citing the ‘foreign agents’, ” says an RBC journalist .

The pressure is felt by everyone, not just those who cover politics. The editorial office of the Forbes magazine has received several calls from the Presidential Administration demanding that the media doesn’t cover the negative economic consequences of sanctions, such as those related to rouble exchange rate fluctuations, or give assessment to certain economic statements by Vladimir Putin: “Special attention is paid to how Putin’s statements are covered” . Still, it’s not even the main problem for the Forbes. Up until now, the magazine remains the only U.S. publication in Russia whose licence hasn’t been recalled yet. When the foreign governments began to impose sanctions on Russia, the owner of the Forbes licence instructed its Moscow licensee to suspend the sales of advertising. In the spring, the team stopped producing the print version. The remaining journalists receive their salary from the owner of the Russian version Magomed Musaev . It’s hard to say how long this can continue without advertising revenue.

Unusual restrictions on economic topics have reached the other media as well. In 2020, Sberbank became the de factor owner of Runet’s former major news media, Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru. After the start of the war, the editorial team at Lenta received the list of original bans: they were forbidden from writing about the rouble’s exchange rate, in particular, its possible crash, and publishing texts that may provoke people to withdraw their deposits from financial institutions on the sanctions list. For some reason, they were also forbidden from writing about “negative incidents involving refugees, ” “news about growing food prices, ” “restrictions on withdrawal of funds, ” and even about “Russia’s surrender to China, ” says the former editor of Lenta’s economics desk Alexandra Miroshnikova.

The journalist said that the bans were passed down from the main shareholder . Still, it was Lenta.Ru that served as a platform for one of the most noticeable journalist protests in the censored Russian media. The protest was organised by Miroshnikova and her manager, the head of the economics desk Yegor Polyakov. On May 9, Lenta’s website was filled with sharp anti-war headlines.

Putin has turned into a pathetic dictator and paranoid
Putin unleashed one of the bloodiest wars of the XXI century
The Russian elite turned out to be weak-willed
Zelensky turned out to be cooler than Putin

Using their access to the editorial system, Miroshnikova and Polyakov published several dozen stories in a matter of 40 minutes. Although this anti-war demarche predictably ended with removal of articles and dismissal of organisers, the journalists have no regrets. Both emigrated from Russia.

The censored media are also experiencing problems in terms of their revenue. The Project’s interlocutor in one of the largest media holdings forecasts that at year-end the advertising market will plummet by at least 30% . “These are the optimistic assessments. In the glossies, the advertising revenue has already fallen by more than 50%, ” he says. Entire categories of advertisers –– automakers, luxury goods, and fashion –– have disappeared completely. These accounted for the lion’s share of ads at Kommersant, RBC, Vedomosti. “Real estate advertising is gradually on the decline, but there is growth in the number of banking service offers. We are holding out for now, ” claims the Project’s source at the RBC Holding. Google’s departure served another serious blow: the company suspended the Russian media’s monetisation on its platforms. “RBC alone can’t recover several hundred thousand dollars, ” says the Project’s source on the market.

Conversations with the employees of these media outlets show that the war has not led to massive resignations in any of them. “There isn’t really a place to go: it’s either you abandon everything and leave the country or at least try to do something, ” says one of the journalists in discussion of future life plans.

How a Rostec-affiliated channel continued broadcasting in the US ↓


It is somewhat surprising that the start of war led to more numerous dismissals and resignations at the state-owned media already accustomed to censorship. The editor of Channel One Marina Ovsyannikova decided on a public protest, while many others preferred to leave quietly.

Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova (right) on the air of the Vremya program with an anti-war poster.

Journalist Yulia Akhmedova who resigned from RIA Novosti said that the very first planning meeting after the start of the war led to arguments: “There was a hot discussion. Our editors who specialise in politics basically refused to write what they were expected to write. Given the situation, no one wanted to write blatant propaganda” .

However, it was RIA that eventually began to publish the most rabid anti-Ukrainian texts, in particular “on the solution of the Ukrainian issue.” The note was removed from the RIA website, but was preserved in the web archive.

About 20 staff members resigned from RIA Novosti . Several dozen people left the Russian editorial office of RT  . “When it all began, our team was told to abandon all other stories, because we are switching to Ukraine full on, ” says an RT staffer. He adds that the management now closely watches what editors post on their social media: “At least three people were fired in the first days because of the posts they wrote.”

Several staffers at the TASS news agency also didn’t find it possible to stay. In late March, the agency’s commentator on international affairs Ruslan Suleymanov resigned in protest of the war. Suleymanov told the Project that he knows at least 10 other people who did the same. The crisis also hit one of the agency’s key departments, the military desk. After the start of the war, several war correspondents at TASS submitted their letters of resignation, and this was publicly announced by one of them, Gleb Irisov. Back in March, Irisov told the Project that TASS’s editor-in-chief received a call concerning him from the FSB, while other journalists who decided to resign were threatened . The military desk has 10 correspondents. In the end, only Irisov and two other people resigned. A source at TASS says that after Irisov’s resignation, the management began to track the staffers’ CVs at the HeadHunter job platform: “If they publish their CV there, they are invited for a talk with the management and asked what is making them unhappy.”

Solovyov and Kiselev have defeated Ernst

With the beginning of the war, federal channels dramatically increased the amount of propaganda broadcasts. As the Project wrote earlier, compared to a regular pre-war week, the volume of information and journalistic programs on Channel One has increased from 28 to 90 hours per week. On Russia-1, the amount of propaganda rose from 52.5 to 67.5 hours per week. Russia-1 emerged as the winner, significantly outpacing Channel One in terms of viewership (percentage of all those watching television at the time) for almost six months of the war.

How the audience share of Rossiya-1 and Channel One has changed since the beginning of the war

Percentage of all those who watch TV by week

Source: Mediascope

However, for those who remained engaged in propaganda, the war turned out to be a very profitable topic. The Project has obtained data on salaries in the largest state-owned media outlets. For example, the salary of VGTRK war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny, who regularly covers the hostilities in Ukraine, increased by almost a quarter — in the first half of 2022 he received an average of 974,000 rubles per month against 782,000 a year earlier. Salary of another correspondent Nikolai Dolgachev has increased by almost 65% — he receives an average of 688,000 rubles per month, while last year he earned a little over 400,000.

Payments increased not only for military journalists. Channel One correspondent Anton Vernitsky, who, among other things, covers Putin’s work, began earning between 600,000 and 650,000 rubles a month, whereas in January of this year he received just 400,000 rubles.

RT employees have seen their incomes go up, too. For example, Director of the channel’s Russian broadcasting service Yevgeni Shipilov earned 950,000 rubles a month in January, but starting in March, he started getting at least 1.1 million rubles, or almost 20% more . And last year, Shipilov settled for one-third less income. At the TASS news agency, correspondents were paid bonuses in March for working overtime due to the military action (one current and one former employee told the Project). According to the available records, the bonuses could have been as much as 30% of the salary.

How Match TV lost its raison d’être↓

* * *

“The present is uncertain and pessimistic, and the future is vague but optimistic” –– this is how one editor-in-chief who left Russia characterised the current situation for the independent media. This situation is best described by the following incident. In the summer, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Dmitry Muratov went to Georgia. At the border, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was detained by the Georgian border guards. This did not bode well, because the Georgian authorities had previously barred several prominent journalists and activists from Russia from entering the country without explanation . Muratov spent more than an hour awaiting the decision. In the end, he was allowed to enter and offered an apology with an explanation of a “system malfunction.” The journalist was the only one of dozens of passengers who was affected by this “malfunction.” Nonetheless, yet another hurdle in the life of independent Russian media was cleared.

Editor — Roman Badanin

Fact-checking — Katya Arenina