Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a group of Russian independent media organizations have called on big tech companies to establish a working group to prevent Russia's online information shutdown.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has blocked or forced the closure of nearly all independent media outlets and blocked major platforms — such as Facebook and Instagram — for violating rules on coverage of the country’s invasion.
“We do not want to live in a new Cold War era. There is an urgent need to reconnect Russian citizens with pluralistic information, and with the rest of the world,” the joint statement said.
“It is the essence of the internet to provide this function,” continues the statement addressed to the heads of global tech giants including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Twitter CEO Elon Musk and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The journalists said they feared the Kremlin might block two platforms that are still working in Russia — Telegram and YouTube — “as soon as this autumn, making more than 140 million people hostages of the state’s propaganda apparatus.”
Telegram and Google-owned YouTube have been vital platforms for dissenting Russian journalists and bloggers amid the Kremlin's widening censorship.
“The major services you are in charge of have become the main actors of this mission: social networks, search engines, and app marketplaces are the gateways to an open informational world,” the statement said.
Russia has continued to see a precipitous decline in press freedom in the past year, according to RSF's annual rankings published last month.
Russia placed 164th out of the 180 countries surveyed in the ranking amid what RSF called a “final purge” of the media landscape enabled by the war in Ukraine.