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‘Russia Today’ staff face 5-million-ruble penalties if they criticize the network on social media

The autonomous nonprofit organization “TV-Novosti,” which technically owns the Russia Today television network, reportedly requires staff to sign strict non-disclosure agreements that prohibit reporters, camera operators, and other employees from discussing anything happening at RT with outsiders or criticizing the network in interviews or on social media. According to documents obtained by the website Znak.com, these NDAs remain in force not only while staff are employed at RT, but also for 20 years afterwards. Offenders can be forced to pay RT five million rubles (more than $77,670) in compensation. The agreements bear the signature of TV-Novosti CEO Alexey Nikolov.

The non-disclosure agreements describe confidential information as anything pertaining to TV-Novosti in terms of “production, technical aspects, finances, managerial hierarchy, or otherwise.” This applies to the organization’s internal structure, performance indicators, how the organization and staff operate, and its work style and methods, including any information learned at workshops or about partners. Staff are also prohibited from divulging information about their own NDAs.

“Deliberate or unintentional (careless) actions by [Russia Today] staff that lead to the disclosure of confidential information to even one [third] party” are considered a violation of employees’ contracts. It doesn’t matter if the information leaks in writing or otherwise, but the contracts do identify the following disclosure methods: interviews, public speeches, public correspondence, electronic correspondence, blog posts, and even private conversations.

RT staff are also required to inform TV-Novosti’s security service, if an outsider is trying to get them to disclose confidential information. Offenders are informed that violations can lead to “criminal, administrative, civil, or disciplinary responsibility,” the NDAs explain. Staff cannot refuse to sign these agreements.

RT did not respond to a request from Znak.com to comment on the leaked contract language, but the television network Dozhd has independently confirmed through sources at RT that Znak.com’s report is accurate.

In June 2017, reporters at The Moscow Times credited RT's non-disclosure agreements and non-disparagement agreements with creating an atmosphere of “fear and paranoia” when it comes to discussing the network outside of work.