Russian online news site Newsru announced on Monday it was closing for economic reasons, saying that advertisers were steering clear of it because its story selection did not follow pro-Kremlin state media.
Russia’s TV media landscape is dominated by pro-Kremlin state outlets. There’s a bit more variety online and in print, though moves are afoot to label outlets critical of the Kremlin with foreign funding as “foreign agents,” a step that deters advertisers and readers alike.
Newsru, which has functioned primarily as a news aggregator in recent years, said it was not economical for it to continue. “We are stopping work for economic reasons, but they are provoked by the political situation in the country,” Newsru said in a farewell note to its readers on its website.
The outlet, set up in 2000 when President Vladimir Putin was starting his first term in the Kremlin, pointed to 2014 as a turning point when Russian foreign policy and the structure of the domestic economy changed dramatically.
That was the year that Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, prompting a surge in patriotic sentiment domestically and sending relations with the West to post-Cold War lows.
“Our picture of the day became so different from the picture favored by state (media) resources that major advertisers stopped cooperating with us after the events of 2014, while others began to be particularly wary this year,” Newsru said.
The Kremlin denies cracking down on independent media. It has said the online news media landscape is vibrant and that people have many sources to choose from and that outlets open and close for various reasons.
Russia’s ties with the West this year are acutely strained over its jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and a bout of saber rattling over neighboring Ukraine.
Newsru also complained of regulations requiring media in Russia to label anyone the state regards as “extremists” or “foreign agents” when referencing them in their articles.
Russia has declared several media outlets “foreign agents” including U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Meduza media portal and the VTimes news site.
A court is also considering a call to declare Navalny’s movement “extremist”.
“We have increasingly had to write about the passing of restrictive laws that could affect us ourselves any day now,” said Newsru. “We had to label as foreign agents and extremists more and more respected people and sources of truthful information,” it said.
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