Russian Social Networks, Online News Service Block Current Time After Demand From Regulator

Russia's two leading social networks have blocked Current Time's content at the request of the country's media regulator, in the latest government move to clamp down on independent news organizations.

VKontakte, which is known as VK and is Russia's largest social-media company, and Odnoklassniki informed Current Time of the request on March 10. Yandex.Zen, which is a division of the Russian search giant Yandex, also moved to block Current Time.

The companies said media regulator Roskomnadzor made the request after the Prosecutor-General's Office claimed that Current Time's materials published on the social networks and the online service "carry false information of social importance that may threaten the lives and/or heath of citizens, or a disruption of social order and/or public safety."

The demands come days after the government passed two laws that criminalize independent war reporting and protesting the war in Ukraine. Among other things, the laws make it illegal to spread "fake news" about the Russian armed forces.

Roskomnadzor has ordered media to only publish information provided by official sources. It has also forbidden media organizations from describing the fighting in Ukraine as a "war" or "invasion," instead ordering that it be called a "special military operation."

"Not satisfied by merely blocking the websites of independent outlets, the Kremlin is now purging Russian platforms of factual information about the war in Ukraine," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement.

"No matter what measures the Putin regime takes to block our content, RFE/RL will continue to use all tools at our disposal to share the truth with Russian audiences," he said.

The independent newspaper Novaya gazeta has begun pulling its war reporting offline. The stalwart Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy has been all but shut down.

Current Time and RFE/RL have refused official demands to censor their reporting, calling it fair and accurate.

Independent news media in Russia have been under pressure for years, mainly due to the decade-old "foreign agent" law.

But since the Russian invasion on February 24, there has been a growing number of Russian and foreign media organization that have suspended news operations within Russia, pulled their correspondents, and shifted bylines to anonymous names.

The restrictions are the worst within Russia since the Soviet Union.

Aside from Current Time -- which is a 24/7 Russian-language TV news channel run by RFE/RL in conjunction with Voice of America -- Idel.Realities, a regional RFE/RL news site covering the central Volga region, also received notification from VK.

The messages by Odnoklassniki and Yandex.Zen also urged editors to delete reports covering the war in Ukraine and saying that failure to do so would lead to Current Time's full blockage.

Among the major international broadcasters who have announced suspensions within Russia include BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, CBS, and Germany's ARD and ZDF.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, the BBC, Current Time, and other outlets have also been blocked over what Russian regulators allege are erroneous reports.

Roskomnadzor has also moved to block foreign social media such as Facebook.