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Independent outlet VTimes shuts down following ‘foreign agent’ designation

Source: Meduza

The independent Russian news outlet VTimes has announced it will shut down as of June 12. According to a statement sent to Meduza by VTimes publisher Alexander Gubsky, this decision was made after the Russian Justice Ministry designated the online publication as a “foreign agent.”

“We have seen for ourselves that the authorities have no need for professional, non-government-controlled media,” the statement says.

According to the statement, VTimes considered “seven scenarios” that would allow it to continue working following its “foreign agent” designation. However, all of these options put the publication’s staff at risk of criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

The statement also underscores that the “foreign agent” label “destroyed VTimes’ business model,” as advertisers and partners withdrew their support en masse, and donations from readers “are not enough to fund a high-quality media outlet.” In addition, “many officials, businessmen, and even analysts,” are wary of giving comments to a “foreign agent,” which has deprived the news outlet of its sources.

“Essentially, VTimes is being pushed into the opposition political media niche. But we envisioned and have created a completely different outlet. Therefore, we have decided to stop publishing VTimes on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day.”

The newsroom also thanked its readers, partners, and donors for their support, emphasizing that “closing the VTimes project does not mean that we are abandoning our principles and leaving the profession.”

The full statement from VTimes is available in English here.

VTimes was established in late June 2020 by journalists from the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, who resigned in protest against the actions of the publication’s new leadership. VTimes was added to the Russian Justice Ministry’s list of “foreign agent” media outlets on May 14, 2021. 

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