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Why SouthFront Is Really Independent

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On November 19, lawmakers from the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Parliament) proposed giving Russia’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, the right to block access to social media services that “discriminate against” or censor information coming from Russian news media.

Draft amendments to the laws “On Information” and “On measures impacting persons involved in violations of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation” propose to impose sanctions on websites that discriiminate against Russian news media and giving Roskomnadzor the right to fully or partially restrict access to these sites.

The bill cites “ample evidence” of certain services, including ones registered outside of Russia, placing “unreasonable access restrictions” on media.

“So, since April 2020, the authorized bodies of the Russian Federation have been recording complaints from the editorial offices of the media about the facts of censoring their accounts by foreign Internet sites Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Such media as Russia Today, RIA Novosti, Crimea 24 were censored. In total, about 20 facts of discrimination were recorded,” the document says.

According to Russian state media RIA Novosti, the Russian Attorney General’s Office, in consultation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, will be able to designate outlets as “discriminatory against Russian media,” while Roskomnadzor will maintain a registry of these sites. Roskomnadzor will be able to punish them with blockings, traffic slowdowns and administrative fines. The lifting of the sanctions will be possible if the resource removes restrictions on the materials of the Russian media.

Earlier, on November 18, Roskomnadzor demanded YouTube to remove restrictions from YouTube channel “Solovyov LIVE” operated by the team Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian journalist of Jewish origin widely known for his work on various state media.

“As it became known, since October of this year, the channel’s videos have not been included in the “Trending” section of YouTube, although earlier this happened regularly. This situation can be regarded as an attempt by the YouTube administration to restrict the distribution of materials by a popular Russian author, to prevent the growth of his audience.

The agency also emphasizes that YouTube video hosting is obliged to bring the rules of the site in accordance with the current legislation of the Russian Federation,” Roskomndazor said in a statement.

This move seems to be a part of a wider campaign by Russia. On November 12, Roskomnadzor said it had sent a letter to Google LLC demanding to lift restrictions on viewing the documentary “USA 2020: Up in arms” on YouTube channel of the RT broadcaster.

“Roskomnadzor has asked Google LLC to remove the restrictions on the documentary USA 2020: Up in arms, which is published on the official YouTube channel of the Russian media Russia Today,” the statement says.

The agency added that it told Google that such restrictions on the Russian media were regarded as an act of censorship that violated the key principles of the free flow of information and unhindered access to it.

In a separte development, on November 13, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized YouTube for blocking an investigative film into the Malaysian Boeing crash in Ukraine in 2014 released by Russian sate-linked media Ukraina.ru.

“On November 10, [YouTube] moderators said that the investigative film about the Malaysian Boeing crash in east Ukraine, I quote, ‘violated the community guidelines of the platform’ and blocked it before the premier. <…> It is hard to explain this act of censorship other than being an attempt by certain interested parties to purge alternative versions of the 2014 tragedy from the global airwaves. We are calling on the YouTube administration to reconsider its decision and, generally, abandon this politically motivated policing [of content],” she said.

Earlier this year, on May 20, Russian Foreign Ministry released an official statement on the censorship of four Russian-language media organizations – “Krim 24” (Crimea 24), “Anna News”, “News Front” and “Riafan” – on YouTube.

““Krim 24” TV channel is one of the most popular sources of information on the peninsula. It is a part of Crimea’s largest media holding “Television and Radio Company “Krim” that unites  five television channels, three radio stations, an information portal and two Internet sites. The team of “Krim 24” TV channel traditionally covers the most relevant major news topics in this Russian region.

As a result of the deletion of the Krim 24 account on the Youtube platform, about 30 thousand subscribers lost access to videos that had tens of millions of views. The US platform has taken restrictive measures under the clearly far-fetched pretext of “violating hosting rules.”

The fact that Youtube did not provide any convincing facts explaining its actions, as well as the fact that the appeal of the channel’s team still remains unanswered, is unacceptable,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.

“These are just some examples of US Internet censorship of Russian information portals,” it said.

SouthFront cannot but express solidarity with any actions aimed at opposing the systematic censorship on YouTube, Facebook and other mainstream social media platofrms. Over the past years, SouthFront has repeatedly become a target of informational attacks, censorship and theft of content.

In the second half of 2020 this censorship singificantly increased. SouthFront’s official accounts were terminated and our work censored by the 4 largest mainstream social media platforms and the censorship campaign continues. The US State Department even released a special report in which it called SouthFront a “pillar” of Russian disinformation and propaganda. However, it does not seem that the mighty Kremlin is aware of this ‘amazing revelation’. In fact, Russian official bodies and media orginalizations prefer to ignore the existence of SouthFront, even if the impact of the work of our international team is recognized on the highest level by the US, EU and NATO member states.

The case with the censorship of SouthFront on YouTube is an interesting example of this appraoch:

  • On May 1, SouthFront’s main YouTube channel with over 152,000 subscribers, 1,900 uploaded videos and approximately 60 million views was illegally terminated by the platofrm. SouthFront immediately made an appeal of this decision on YouTube and sent requests of informational support to various international organizations. Taking into account that MSM and Euro-Atlantic structures regularly accuse SouthFront of being ‘Russian propaganda’, we also sent emails to the Russian Foreign Ministry and a number of Russian mainstream media organizations. SouthFront emails and requests were expectedly ignored.
  • While SouthFront was trying to restore our main channel on YouTube, SouthFront volunteer from Russia set up a backup channel to share SouthFront videos and further. This channel was intentionally created by a Russian citizen. This allowed SouthFront volunteer to send a complain to Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor after this backup channel was terminated on July 28. In response, Roskomnadzor provided a cynical answer alleging that there is no possibility to do something in this case. Expectedly, an appeal by a regular citizen drew no real attention, while there are still so much things to help official media.

In fact, SouthFront is not surprised to cynical answers and mainstream-like silence of Russian bodies, including the Foreign Ministry, regarding requests sent by SouthFront and its volunteers from Russia. SouthFront has no relations with the Russian government system. Russian official bodies and mainstream media do have no influence on our editorial policy and, therefore, they have no interests in providing SouthFront with any kind of support or informational assistance. SouthFront’s critical coverage of the situation in Russia only adds oil to the flame.

The modern world is mostly divided not between nations or religious, but rather between the people and the elites, between the freedom of thought and the corporate/globalist-driven totalitarianism. In this environment, no state or corporate actors are interested in the existence of really independent media organizations, authors and groups of authors.

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