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Team Navalny, Investigative Media Launch App to Dodge Russian Ban

Robin Worrall / unsplash

Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team has joined four Russian and foreign investigative outlets in launching a smartphone app aimed at bypassing unprecedented restrictions on Russians’ access to independent media.

Dubbed “Samizdat” in a nod to the bootleg handwritten publications that were circulated to circumvent Soviet censorship, the app features investigative reports from Team Navalny, Russian outlets Proekt, iStories and The Insider, and Netherlands-based Bellingcat. 

Russia has banned or blocked all five of the organizations on various grounds before and after launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that led to an even wider crackdown on dissenting voices.

“All Russian independent media have faced unprecedented constraints in recent years. But it’s investigative journalists who suffered the most,” Proekt said Friday.

“The purpose of this attack is to destroy investigative journalism in Russia and make information about corruption, dictatorship and war inaccessible to Russians,” wrote The Insider.

Samizdat, which is available to Apple and Android users, is described as an aggregator for the separate publications without a single editorial policy or overriding structure.

Its creators say Russia-based users can access the app without the need for VPNs.

Russian authorities said this summer they have blocked more than 138,000 websites and links containing banned information in a bid to combat what Moscow views as “fake news” about the invasion of Ukraine.

Independent internet freedom watchdogs say the number of blocked websites is closer to 5,300.

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