Meduza’s editorial office received a notice from Russia’s federal censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, ordering the removal of an article about the “flashlight protest” Alexey Navalny’s supporters are planning to conduct on Sunday, February 14.
The notice says specifically that the article contained “information with calls for citizens to participate in mass (public) events on February 14, 2021, in Moscow and other Russian cities, conducted in support of A.A. Navalny in violation of the established procedures.”
Roskomnadzor added that there wasn’t any information confirming that the protests in question had been approved “by the competent authorities in the manner prescribed by law.”
Meduza deleted the article at the department’s request.
The article that drew Roskomnadzor’s attention was titled “Many made fun of flashlights as a new form of protest. But not the Russian government. It saw it as a NATO scheme and is even scaring [people] with terrorist attacks.” The text didn’t mention the exact time that the demonstration is scheduled to begin.
The article reported that Russia’s Investigative Committee, police officials, andAttorney General’s Office had issued warnings “about the inadmissibility of violating the law” in connection with the calls for mass demonstrations. It also cited reports from the state news agencies TASS and RIA Novosti, which said that according to anonymous sources, terrorist attacks were being planned during the protests in different Russian cities.
The text also cited the opinions of Russian lawmakers and the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. In addition, it cited segments from state television channels, which have covered the upcoming demonstration in great detail — one channel even aired a segment that included the tweet announcing the demonstrations posted by Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov.
In late 2020, the Russian State Duma adopted amendments to article 7 of the federal law “On assemblies, demonstrations, rallies, marches, and picketing.” These changes allow the courts to recognize nearly any gathering as a “public event” that can be deemed illegal unless it was sanctioned by the relevant authorities in advance.
No court decisions recognizing the demonstration planned for February 14 as a “public event” have been reported as of yet.