Index 2024
162/ 180
Score : 29.86
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
164/ 180
Score : 34.77
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, almost all independent media have been banned, blocked and/or declared “foreign agents” or “undesirable organisations”. All others are subject to military censorship. 

Media landscape

All privately owned independent TV channels are banned from the air, except for cable entertainment channels. Many western media such as EuronewsFrance 24 and the BBC are no longer accessible in the country, without an announcement of any legal, administrative or judicial decision. The media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has censored most independent news sites, and the most popular ones, such as Meduza and TV Rain, have been declared “undesirable organisations”, which means that mentioning them or quoting them can lead to criminal proceedings. The remaining media are owned by the state or by Kremlin allies. Their employees must follow orders issued by the president’s office regarding subjects to be avoided, and must censor themselves closely. Radio stations are in the same situation. 

Political context

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, President Vladimir Putin has seemed increasingly isolated from the outside world and even more so since the start of his war against Ukraine. Only a very restricted circle now has access to him. The last collective decision-making institutions, such as the Security Council, no longer really function as such. Parliament has become a chamber for recording decisions made by the Kremlin or for trying to demonstrate loyalty by taking increasingly oppressive decisions. The official discourse, relayed by the ubiquitous propaganda machine, is mainly based on accounts of Russia’s “historical grievances” and conspiracy theories. 

Legal framework

No journalists, even those in exile, are safe from the threat of serious charges based on vaguely worded draconian laws, often adopted in haste. Many laws relating to freedom of expression – including defamation and “fake news” laws – were amended in order to incorporate them into the Penal Code at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The invasion of Ukraine gave a new impetus to this process, with parliament hastily adopting amendments under which “false information” about the Russian armed forces and any other Russian state body operating abroad is now punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Charges of “extremism” and “condoning terrorism” are increasingly used. 

Economic context

The radical sanctions that Western democracies imposed on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine suddenly severed much of the Russian economy from Europe’s, with which it was closely integrated, resulting in a great deal of uncertainty. Aside from censorship – which has forced many media outlets to close and has impoverished the few remaining independent journalists, forcing them to change professions or go abroad – the advertising market has experienced major fluctuations that have especially affected Russia’s regional media. 

Sociocultural context

Although the Internet connection rate is very high, nearly two-thirds of Russians get their news mainly from television, which is controlled by the government, and from Russian social media, like VKontakte. Subjects such as homosexuality and religious feelings have gradually become off limits for the media under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, who has encouraged a certain conservatism in Russian society. 


In recent years, in addition to heavy sentences, even torture, used mainly in the regions, the frequent use of fines and short-term detention under various pretexts have been added to the methods employed to intimidate journalists. The media are also under threat of arbitrary inclusion on the list of “foreign agents”, a status that comes with heavy bureaucratic hurdles and legal risks, and the list of “undesirable organisations”, which criminalises any mention of – or cooperation with – the targeted media. Faced with additional risks incurred since the start of the war in Ukraine, many journalists working for independent media outlets have chosen exile. The authorities maintain pressure by “visiting” family members or by convicting them in absentia.