Members of Parliament heard from a close associate of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny about President Vladimir Putin's efforts to stifle independent media in the country.
The MPs were given an opportunity to question Leonid Volkov, a senior aid to Alexei Navalny, during a recent House of Commons foreign affairs committee meeting. Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, a longtime journalist with the Edmonton Sun before entering politics, took the chance to ask Volkov about the state of independent media in Russia.
“In our country independent media complain they’re often not allowed at high level government news conferences or if they are, they won’t be allowed to ask questions,” the Edmonton Griesbach MP said.
“What’s the state of independent journalism in Russia? Is it under threat and what can be done about it?”
Responding to Diotte's question, Volkov, speaking virtually from Lithuania, said that independent media in Russia is close to non-existent. The Kremlin, Volkov said, has full control over television and newspapers, while the internet is only “relatively free.”
Not entirely unlike Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is pushing to regulate internet media through Bill C-10, Volkov said that Putin's government was “launching a huge campaign against important independent internet media,” adding that Meduza, a large independent media company in neighbouring Latvia, which is home to a significant Russian community, has been designated as a “foreign agent.” Labelling the outlet a foreign agent, Volkov said, prevents any advertiser from working with the company.
Russia, however, according to Volkov, is seeing a large increase in investigative journalism, driven by a population that is becoming hungry for dissenting opinions online. Meanwhile, Putin's government has been conducting its own battle with Big Tech, which Volkov described as an effort to censor individuals or groups who are critical of the government.