Pussy Riot Members Launch Site

Members of the punk band Pussy Riot Maria Alyokhina (L) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova freed from prison under an amnesty, at a press conference in the studio of TV channel "Dozhd."

An Internet news agency financed by Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina was launched Thursday.

MediaZone's declared goal is to cover the situation in Russian prisons and penal colonies, with a focus on human rights. The website has been set up as part of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina's Rights Zone movement, which monitors the conditions of inmates in Russia's prisons and offers them legal and psychological help.

The two women set up the organization upon their release last year after serving time in penal colonies for their part in a protest in a Moscow cathedral by feminist punk collective Pussy Riot.

Topics covered by the new website will include harassment of rights activists, torture and other forms of abuse by police, the Federal Prison Service's labor system and corruption, a statement on the site says.

"In today's Russia, to a large extent, public life has shifted to the courts, and from there it's been spread to penal colonies all over the country. Criminal cases, court verdicts, political and ordinary imprisonment — the view from behind bars best of all gives a look at what is happening in state processes," the statement says.

In comments to the online news portal Yopolis.ru, editor-in-chief Sergei Smirnov said: "There has been a lot of pressure on human rights organizations lately, with NGOs being declared 'foreign agents.' It's more and more difficult to get information about the problems of rights organizations. We are launching this project partly to share such information."

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