I received this newsletter from The Guardian today, about Russian journalists trying to tell the truth to their fellow Russians.
This week, our newsletter comes to you from Latvia, where we’ve been working alongside some of the few brave Russian journalists still trying to tell the truth.
They face formidable odds. They have been condemned as ‘foreign agents’; they’ve been blocked, banned, bullied and banished from Russia; they sit in exile, short of staff, advertisers and funding.
But not short of readers.
Independent news websites like Meduza and Holod say they still reach millions of unique browsers in Russia, thanks to mirror websites, virtual private networks (VPNs) that can dodge the censors, and hard-to-block channels like email and the Telegram app.
Unlike the patsies of Russian television and the press, who spout the Kremlin line about ‘special military operations’ and ‘Ukrainian Nazis’, they strive for a closer approximation of the truth, publishing credible daily news in Russian for an audience desperate for accurate information.
This week Holod has an exclusive about Russian mercenaries recruited from prison. Meduza has liveblogged every single day of the Ukraine war (in Russian).
“In recent years, most of the independent media have been destroyed in Russia, and after the war broke out, only a few remained alive,” Holod’s editor-in-chief Taisia Bekbulatova told me. “Holod is one of them.”
“Our goal is to preserve independent journalism for the future of Russia,” she added. “Despite having to work in exile, we believe in the importance of high-quality journalism and the possibility of destroying a dictatorship. We want to be not just a media, but a true institution of independent journalism.”
For a western world struggling to know how to make a difference in the information war, supporting journalists like this seems an obvious start.
With my colleague Iona McKendrick, we shared some of the things we’ve learned about building a supporter base for the Guardian, in the hope that it might help our Russian fellows secure the funding they need to stay afloat.
The Holod leadership team at a Guardian workshop in Riga last week
The hope has to be that flourishing independent Russian news organisations might persuade ever greater numbers to question the Kremlin’s lies. Glasnost has impeccable form in this regard.
As Taisia puts it: “The support of individuals who value the truth we strive to provide is crucial for our survival. This includes not only financial assistance but also advocacy and technological support. If you can, please consider supporting us to preserve independent voices and fight state propaganda in Russia.”
You can find out more about supporting Holod here and Meduza here.
Until next week
Executive editor, supporters