‘Censorship has returned to Russia’ Yekaterinburg journalists organize a ‘funeral for freedom,’ spray-painting graves for Russians' rights
The Yekaterinburg-based news outlet 66.ru teamed up with local street artist Roma Ink to protest censorship in Russia using a series of graves spray-painted onto the city’s walls. For three nights in a row, the graffiti gravestones mourning various civil liberties appeared and reappeared around the city.
On June 3, a gravestone for freedom of assembly (1993 – 2012) appeared near the square where thousands of protesters gathered in mid-May to protest the construction of a new cathedral. The “birth date” on the graffiti marks the establishment of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which prohibits censorship and guarantees a series of freedoms for Russian citizens. The “death date” marks the passage of a series of amendments limiting the freedom to protest publicly. By midday, municipal utility employees had washed off the graffiti.
The following day, a gravestone mourning the “death” of freedom of religion in Russia (1993 – 2013) appeared near Yekaterinburg’s Cathedral on Spilled Blood. 2013 marks the passage of Russia’s federal law penalizing “offending the feelings of believers.”
The third piece in the series memorialized freedom of speech (1993 – 2019). It was painted on June 5 next to the city’s House of Journalists. In 2019, two new laws took effect in Russia that penalize insulting the government online and sharing fake news. The gravestone was erased after several hours
Roma Ink called the artistic protest action “a graveyard of our hopes and our freedoms.” “Remember Orwell and Huxley,” he said. “We are slowly but surely being pushed back to 1861. And I am truly relying on you, the people of our city and our country, to ensure that the leashes pulling us into the past under the guise of building a bright future will tear under an onslaught of collective consciousness and social justice,” he declared.
66.ru journalists also published a manifesto explaining the meaning of the protest action:
Censorship has returned to Russia. The government has instated it slowly, piece by piece. And it has found excuses every time. Protecting children. Demographic struggles. Patriotism. Defending the feelings of believers. State security. All of these defensible, useful slogans have taken away our freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and, finally, our freedom to express our opinions. We cannot go on like this…
Government! When you close the valves one after the other, you do not stop the current. You merely stop noticing it, and that means you lose control of the situation. If censorship continues to grow, you will be unable to see what is happening at all. And that is dangerous.
We, the undersigned Russian citizens, do not want to destroy our country. We are not being paid by the State Department, and we have no intention of sparking a bloody revolution. We’re normal. We can be spoken to and negotiated with. But for that, we need to be heard.
The entire staff of 66.ru, including its CEO and editor-in-chief, signed the petition.