Under state pressure, news outlets in Russia delete content on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow in 2021. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - Several independent news outlets in Russia said on Tuesday (Feb 1) they had been ordered to delete content related to corruption investigations by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny that probed lavish lifestyles among Kremlin elites.

The move is the latest against Russia's embattled media scene, where liberal editors and journalists have complained of mounting state pressure.

Prominent television network Dozhd and news website Meduza were among those to report they had been warned by the state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, to delete reports or face consequences, including being blocked.

The Russian-language version of the expat newspaper, The Moscow Times, said it also received a request to remove content.

The outlets said Roskomnadzor's requests related to Navalny investigations into alleged graft perpetrated by Russian elites including President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny's team last January released an investigation into an opulent Black Sea property they claimed Russian oligarchs built for Putin. The film has garnered more than 120 million views since its release.

Most media outlets said they had been obliged to comply and delete the content in question.

Roskomnadzor confirmed to AFP it had issued the requests following a demand from prosecutors, which said the outlets had distributed content relating to an extremist group.

The statement said failure to remove "illegal content" could be met with fines of up to eight million roubles (S$140,000).

Leonid Volkov, Navalny's close associate who lives in exile, called on supporters to fight "censorship" in Russia and share the investigations online.

"Roskomnadzor demands that reality be changed, the internet cleaned up and facts cancelled," Volkov tweeted.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned what it called an example of "shameful censorship" in Russia.

The media were "just disclosing critical information about high-ranking officials" including former prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and Putin, RSF said.

The media complaints are the latest in a string of moves from authorities that have put pressure on independent media and journalists in Russia.

Dozens of media workers and leading independent outlets have recently been designated "foreign agents".

A term with Soviet-era undertones, the status obliges those slapped with the label to disclose sources of funding and label publications - including social media posts - with a tag or face fines.

Last year, Navalny's political organisations, including his anti-corruption group that probed graft, were designated extremist.

The opposition politician himself was arrested and jailed last February on old fraud charges.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.