Away from Ukraine, Kremlin is fighting a campaign that is part of rehashed agenda that sees media as propaganda automatons.
Vladimir Putin won the war in Crimea without a bullet being fired. But to triumph in a very different war – that against independent Russian media – he didn't even have to bring in the army. In today's Russia, there are very different instruments for this kind of thing.
My colleagues and I know this from first-hand experience: the place we work, the only Russian independent television station, Dozhd or "Rain", has been operating on the edge of extinction for the past couple of months.
Rain first aired in Russia in 2010, when, after the first two tough presidencies of Putin, there was a strong demand for unbiased information and rigorous journalism. Thanks to this, within four years it became one of the main information resources in the country.
We interviewed not just opposition figures, but also the leadership, including Dmitry Medvedev, asking them uncomfortable questions live that simply wouldn't get asked on state TV.
Our audience has grown with every month: we broadcast on the internet and our channel is carried by the biggest Russian cable and satellite networks.
Then, in January, we aired a debate about the siege of Leningrad and whether the city should have surrendered so as to avoid loss of life. This is not an original question in Russia. It's even mentioned in a school textbook. But it quickly escalated into a matter of state.
Within a month, Rain was excluded from virtually all cable and satellite services and lost almost 90% of its audience. And though the leaders of these companies said they did it because they had been offended by the question about the siege of Leningrad, privately they explained that they were under pressure from the Kremlin.
MPs wrote several requests to the state prosecutor about Rain – they were interested in how we were funded. Tax and labour inspectors came. The owner of our building suddenly declared he no longer wanted to extend our lease. But the most important thing was that Rain lost its advertisers: several left because our audience had collapsed, others were worried about advertising on a TV channel that was in the doghouse.
All this happened within two months. From a successful business, Rain turned into a project on the edge of oblivion, existing only on funding from its viewers. And now everything depends on whether the Kremlin stops putting pressure on Rain: it may seem strange but the future of my TV channel will be decided in the same place that everything else in Russia is decided.
As the current Russian leadership understands it, the main aim of the media should be propaganda. Propaganda that must find the right words to explain those complicated matters such as the events in Ukraine or the inevitable economic crisis. In this system, there is no room for independent media groups like Rain, or for me and my colleagues. And so the independent media which appeared in recent years, and which can ask awkward questions about all this, has become inappropriate. One recent poll found that more than 70% of Russians are prepared to accept censorship in the interests of the state.
Tikhon Dzyadko is deputy editor of Russian independent television channel Dozhd
Originally published: www.theguardian.com