Maria Ovsyannikova

The Russian journalist who protested live against the invasion of Ukraine

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On Monday in Russia, Marina Ovsyannikova, a journalist of the TV channel Russia 1 was arrested, who shortly before had exposed a sign live to protest against the invasion of Ukraine. After her arrest, Ovsyannikova had been lost for a few hours: the news site Meduza had written that throughout the night several of her lawyers had been looking for her to offer her legal support without being able to track her down. On Tuesday afternoon, she Ovsyannikova reappeared with attorney Anton Gashinsky in court, who imposed a fine on her and then released her.

Ovsyannikova’s protest was carried out a few days after the approval of a very harsh law against the media not complacent with the Russian government, for which now it risks being punished with jail.

Ovsyannikova, who is part of the editorial board of the Russian 1 news program, had interrupted a live edition of the same news program, showing up behind the presenter with a sign that read, in Russian and English: «No to war, stop to war. Don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you ”, and further down:“ Russians against the war ”. However, the court in which she appeared on Tuesday did not judge this gesture, but a video which Ovsyannikova had published shortly before, criticizing the regime and explaining the reasons for its protest.

Among other things, Ovsyannikova had said that the responsibility for the attack lay with “a single man: Vladimir Putin”, and that even though she herself had for a long time helped to operate the “Russian propaganda machine” by working on that newscast. , now he was ashamed. “Not even the next ten generations will be able to wash away the stain of this fratricidal war,” Ovsyannikova had said, inviting the Russian people to protest.

On Tuesday afternoon, after a court hearing, Ovsyannikova he did know that she was interrogated for 14 hours by the Russian authorities, without the possibility of being assisted by a lawyer or to contact her family. Meanwhile, Russian parliament spokesman Vyacheslav Volodin, quoted by Meduzasaid the journalist’s actions will be judged “to the fullest extent”.

Those who break the new media law promoted by Putin – which among other things prohibits the media from calling the war in Ukraine a “war” or “invasion” and forces it to be called a “special military operation”, as the government propaganda does – faces 15 years in prison, as well as a fine of tens of thousands of rubles (a figure in the hundreds of dolars).

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In its newsletter on Substack, journalist Farida Rustamova, who worked for the Russian edition of BBC and also for Meduza, wrote that he had talked to some acquaintances of Ovsyannikova. Rustamova wrote that several of Ovsyannikova’s colleagues were quite amazed by the journalist’s gesture, that she was not used to taking political positions so openly and, all in all, she did not even talk often about politics; perhaps also because of the type of work she did for many years in that channel: Rustamova explained, Rustamova explained, rather than writing or commenting on Russian politics, she translated official speeches of foreign people into Russian.

Ovsyannikova had just arrived in the newsroom for her shift when she cut off the ongoing broadcast with the protest sign on Monday. It’s unclear how she managed to get in on the live footage: Rustamova explained that the studio is usually guarded by several people, and it’s not easy to get close if you don’t have a specific reason or job. The person on call at that time was perhaps distracted, or knowing that Ovsyannikova was part of the staff she did not pay particular attention to the fact that she was passing by.

Journalist Kevin Rothrock, of Meduza, he said that Vkontakte, the largest Russian social network, deleted the video of Ovsyannikova’s protest, which had been circulated a lot. It seems that Ovsyannikova’s gesture was also appreciated by some Russian journalists of the channel, she wrote among others Meduza, that has resumed in particular, the story of an employee of the Russian public network VGTRK (the one to which the Russia 1 channel belongs): the employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that when some of his colleagues saw the protest gesture live they praised Ovsyannikova for her courage.

In accordance to affirmed by Russian journalist Roman Super and Daniel Sandford of BBCit seems that after Ovsyannikova’s live protest they decided to step down at least four employees of Russian public television. This afternoon she resigned also the TV presenter Lilia Gildeeva, of the NTV channel, close to Putin.

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