The newsroom at Dozhd, or TV Rain in English, was buzzing on Monday, three days after the Kremlin had designated the outlet–the only independent TV channel in the country–as a “foreign agent,” casting its future into doubt.
The channel’s 170 employees refused to give up, despite threats, lawsuits, and persecutions. As Russia’s only television channel covering national and foreign news without state censorship, its coverage of the Kremlin’s political opposition is all but certainly the cause of its problems today.
Russia is in the midst of one of the harshest crackdowns on journalism in its post-Soviet history: dozens of the country’s reporters are essentially being labelled state enemies. Reporters who receive foreign funding or repost news from media that are “foreign agents” can be subject to significant fines and arrest.
The label’s consequences go beyond this: Russian ears are prone to suspicion when the term “agent” is used. The “foreign” word is also meant to drive viewers and readers away. This is despite the fact that many generations of Russians have been subjected to a torrent of anti-West propaganda since the Soviet period.
Who decided to make TV Rain the enemy of the state? Tikhon Dziadko is the editor-in-chief of TV Rain. He says that “Nobody could have made such a decision without Putin.” Dziadko said that Putin never liked our channel.
Russian authorities have in the past criticized the U.S. because it designated Russia Today, the Kremlin’s main television channel, as a “foreign agency.” However, to TV Rain, this comparison is absurd. It is a popular, law-abiding and, most importantly, Russian media outlet that has transparent finances.
Dziadko stated that the channel received approximately $67,000 in grants back in 2016 from Russian and foreign organisations and reported these funds to state authorities. We cannot be compared with RT being a foreign agent’ in the U.S. because we are a well-known Russian TV channel.”