Most Russians believe Putin’s propaganda, says head of closed TV station

Vladimir Putin retains the support of a large majority of Russians thanks to increasingly powerful state propaganda, said the head of an independent television channel closed by the regime.

Natalia Sindeeva, founder of the Dozhd TV channel, said The Independent that a draconian censorship law introduced last month had destroyed any chance of reaching a large Russian audience with the truth about the invasion of Ukraine.

Sindeeva said the roughly 20% of Russia’s population who were already opposed to Putin still had ways of knowing what was happening in Ukraine – but the rest are now fully absorbed by messages from state-controlled media.

“These people watch the propaganda. They have completely opposite images, they think it was the Ukrainians bombing Mariupol, they think the Ukrainians killed people in Bucha,” she said.

“The problem is the audience for state propaganda. We cannot reach them and, to be honest, they have no requests for independent information. It’s a majority of the people – they support the war, they support Putin, they make it easy for him.

The Dozhd channel, established in 2008, was forced to shut down in early March after the Kremlin pushed through a media censorship law that punishes what it calls ‘false’ war reporting with up to 15 years in jail. prison.

“Passing this law made it impossible to report live on online TV,” Sindeeva said. “We could not report news related to Ukraine, or we would have to use only official Russian state sources, which do not give a real picture.”

Sindeeva is at the center of a new documentary, F@ck this job – renamed Tango with Putin for his appearance on BBC iPlayer – about the prominent socialite’s efforts to run a truly independent television channel that was prepared to challenge Putin’s government.

She had hoped that Dozhd, also known as TV Rain, could mix serious news and “glamorous television”, creating an audience of young Russians eager for reform. But the war in Ukraine ended the regime’s willingness to tolerate independent media.

Dozhd staff were inundated with threatening emails and calls soon after the invasion began, even before the censorship law made it impossible to continue.

Despite the March crackdown, the minority of Russians already opposed to Putin — some of whom have been arrested for protesting the war — are still able to get accurate information about Ukraine online.

“Our core audience knows how to use VPN to open some blocked sources, or how to find our journalists or our Ukrainian sources. This is our bubble,” Sindeeva said.

Dozhd is not the only independent outlet to have been forced to stop reporting on the invasion. the Novaya Gazeta The newspaper has suspended its activities until the end of Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The newspaper’s editor, Dmitry Muratov, co-winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, was attacked in Moscow earlier this week by someone who threw a mixture of red paint and acetone.

Some who work for state-controlled media have paid the price for speaking out. Channel One presenter Marina Ovsyannikova was arrested after shouting ‘Stop the war’ on air, and now faces charges for staging an ‘unauthorized public event’.

Campaign groups like Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation hope the overwhelming pressure of international sanctions could lead to a government overthrow.

But Sindeeva is pessimistic that the squeeze on the Russian economy will lead to significant numbers of people turning against the president. She said the Russian public would be prepared to “endure the hardships” that arise due to the collapsing economy.

“For now, Putin’s propaganda paints the picture that deteriorating economic conditions are part of the West’s plan to weaken Russia. Thus, the Russians might even become more united against this external enemy.

Natalia Sindeeva, founder of Dozhd TV

(Six Days Movie)

Vera Krichevskaya, former network producer and director of Tango with Putin, predicted that Putin would stay in power after 2036, when his term is supposed to end. “Putin will be here now until the physical end of his life: 2036? 2045? Dates don’t matter anymore.

Sindeeva does not have much hope for democratic change in the years to come. “Right now, it’s hard to imagine reforms,” ​​she said.

But the former boss of the television channel, who does not reveal her whereabouts, said that many independent Russian journalists would find a way to continue working.

“I’m sure it has a future,” she said of her media company. “I am actively exploring new options to continue reporting on what is happening in Russia. I am thinking about how to restart the project, but I cannot give you details now.

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