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Russia's Dozhd TV Under Pressure

Dozhd's director-general, Natalya Sindeyeva
Dozhd's director-general, Natalya Sindeyeva

Russian prosecutors have launched an inspection against the independent TV channel Dozhd, known for its critical coverage of President Vladimir Putin and which regularly provides a platform for opponents of the government.

Dozhd's director-general, Natalya Sindeyeva, said in a December 7 Facebook post that city prosecutors visited the channel's office earlier in the day to check its compliance with laws on extremism and terrorism, labor, and licensing.

Prosecutors from Moscow's Ostankino District demanded that Dozhd hand over documents, including employee contracts, tax records, and a list of any foreign employees, according to a scanned copy of a notice from prosecutors that Sindeyeva posted on Facebook.

The document states that the inspection was initiated on the basis of “appeals from citizens.”

Sindeyeva wrote that fire inspectors came to the office after prosecutors.

The Internet and cable TV company has gained a reputation as one of Russia's most tenacious and hard-hitting news outlets amid the Kremlin's tightening control of the country's media landscape since Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 following a four-year stint as prime minister.

It has previously come under fire for its reporting and was on the brink of demise last year, when nearly all cable networks dropped it in a matter of days amid what Dozhd called a state-orchestrated intimidation campaign.

Nationalist federal lawmaker Aleksei Zhuravlyov in September called on prosecutors to examine Dozhd's labor conditions and use of partner content.

Critical Coverage

Zhuravlyov accused the channel of improperly using content from the BBC and Germany's Deutsche Welle that "discredits Russia's efforts to settle the conflict in southeastern Ukraine.”

Since April 2014, a war between Russian-backed separatists and Kyiv's forces has killed more than 7,900 people in eastern Ukraine, where a shaky cease-fire brokered by the EU and Russia remains in place.

Dozhd has been one of the few Russian media outlets providing critical coverage of Russia's seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Moscow's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian newspaper RBC reported on its website on December 7 that Dozhd also briefly worked with opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation during its recent investigation of Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika and his family.

The expose, published online December 1, accused Chaika's sons of illegally privatizing industrial facilities and businesses in Russia to purchase pricey foreign real estate, as well as illegally obtaining state tenders for construction and development projects in Russia.Chaika has called the accusations "baseless" and "mendacious."

RBC cited unidentified sources close to Navalny's investigation of Chaika as saying that Dozhd assisted in producing a film published along with the expose.

Dozhd has previously worked with Navalny's team on investigations into alleged government corruption, including in connection with the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

Dozhd's editor in chief, Mikhail Zygar, told RBC that there were no immediate indications that the inspection by prosecutors is connected to the channel's cooperation with Navalny on the investigation of Chaika and his sons.

With reporting by and AP
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