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Russia continues crackdown on western Journalists, expels Politico reporter

Politico A picture taken in Brussels shows the Politico newspaper [Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP]

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last year, Russia has unapologetically cracked down on many Western journalists.

The latest victim on Kremlin’s big stick is a Politico reporter, Eva Hartog, who was allegedly expelled without a clear reason.

Eva Hartog, a Dutch citizen who is also a columnist for the Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, announced the development on Wednesday.

“I was informed by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that for the first time in ten years, my visa will not be renewed. The decision was taken by the ‘competent authorities’, a term often used for the security services.

“Under international law, no reason or explanation was owed to me,” Hartog wrote in a column for De Groene Amsterdammer.

“I was given six days to wrap up my life.”

In a statement, the editor of Politico Europe, Jamil Anderlini, said Hartog “has safely departed Moscow after the renewal of her visa and transfer of her press accreditation to Politico were rejected by the Russian authorities.”

“We are extremely disappointed by these actions, but they do not diminish Politico’s unwavering commitment to covering the Russian government and its war in Ukraine.

“We hope that Eva and Politico will return to Moscow in the near future to continue our factual and nonpartisan coverage of Russian politics,” he said.

The Kremlin has intensified its censorship and repression of the media, both domestic and foreign, in the past year.

After launching an invasion of Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin enacted a law that imposes prison sentences for anyone who disseminates “false information” about Russia’s armed forces.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists around the world reports that 19 journalists are behind bars in Russia, while seven others have disappeared.

The right to freedom of expression and information is under attack in Russia.

Independent media outlets are silenced, alternative information sources are blocked, and journalists who criticize Russia’s aggression in Ukraine are branded as “foreign agents”.

This is a deliberate strategy to distort public opinion and stifle any opposition or challenge to Russia’s actions.

The international community should not tolerate Russia’s violations and should urge the immediate restoration of media freedom in the country.

Journalists are not adversaries or spies, they are professionals who play a crucial role in informing the public and holding the authorities accountable.

Russia’s oppression of journalism is not only a danger to its own people but also to regional and global peace and security.

Western media have been attempting to report the conflict in Ukraine and reveal the reality, but they encounter many difficulties and dangers in doing so.

Hartog is not the only Western correspondent who has had to leave Russia.

The New York Times decided to temporarily shut down its Moscow office and withdraw its staff, citing the new “fake news” law that Putin enacted in March 2023.

The law could criminalize truthful reporting of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, including by using the word “war,” and seeks to impose up to 15 years of prison for offenders.

Michael Slackman, the assistant managing editor of the New York Times, said that the law could jeopardize the security of their reporters and compromise their journalistic standards.

The most disturbing case of Russia’s assault on Western media is the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter and a US citizen, who was arrested in March 2023 on charges of spying.

Gershkovich and his paper reject all the accusations against him, saying that he was only doing his work as a journalist.

His arrest provoked international outrage and a campaign for his freedom, with many prominent figures and organizations expressing their support for him.

Gershkovich is still in prison, awaiting trial.

These events indicate that Russia and Western media have conflicting views on the role and duty of the media in times of war and crisis.

Russia sees Western media as adversaries and threats, while Western media see themselves as monitors and informers.

The situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon, as both sides are firm in their positions and interests.