Moscow Times relocating to Netherlands as Russia tightens media restrictions
The main editors of the Russian online newspaper The Moscow Times will be working from the Netherlands for the time being, founder and publisher Derk Sauer said to the Volkskrant. "At least we hope so," he said. "Because we are still in Moscow, and it is getting more difficult to get out of the country."
The editors are fleeing the country due to a draconian media law President Vladimir Putin suddenly implemented on Friday. The law passed through the Russian parliament, the Duma, and the senate, the Federation Council, within a week. It states that everyone who spreads "fake news" could face 15 years in prison. The law expressly notes that this also applies to foreigners. Previously, the Kremlin banned journalists from using the words "war" and "invasion" when writing about Ukraine.
The law sparked an exodus of foreign correspondents from Russia, including Dutch correspondents Iris de Graaf (NOS), Jarro Kamphorst (Trouw), and Eva Hartog (De Groene Amsterdammer). And it won't stop there, Sauer expects. "My son Pyotr works for The Guardian from Moscow and has a lot of contact with fellow correspondents. They're all taking off. But Russian journalists also want to leave," he said to the Volkskrant.
The Moscow Times employs 20 journalists. The non-Russian editors were able to leave the country relatively easily and are already working from abroad. Four or five coordinating editors, including himself, hope to come to the Netherlands in the coming week. They already got their visa, Sauer said. The few editors who wish to continue writing for Russia will do so anonymously from now on, he said.
"I walked through our house this morning, where we have all these wonderful memories - our three children grew up here - and for the first time, the question came up: will I ever come back here?" Sauer said to the newspaper. He added that coming to the Netherlands was a tough choice for some of his editors. "Only the journalists received a visit; their families didn't. And our editor-in-chief has three young children. He does not know for how long he will go to the Netherlands. One month? Three months? Can he ever come back?"