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Meet Anastasia Sechina from Russia

On the importance of keeping regional journalism alive
Anastasia Sechina

It is a well-known fact that it is not easy working as a journalist in Russia. “Journalists work in an environment of fear, maintained by physical and verbal violence, imprisonment, censorship, economic and political pressure,” concluded Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s own Freedom Barometer in the section dedicated to the country.

Anastasia Sechina, a reporter and editor based in the city of Perm, shares how she has been fighting – and surviving – in the inhospitable Russian media tundra for almost 20 years now, and why she still does it. “Small, local media can become a focal point for civic activism on a particular topic, it can inspire and educate citizens to join together to change something,” she says.

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Currently, she is coordinating an independent journalistic project, the award-winning “The Fourth Sector” media collective, as well as a platform for journalist tools called “Gribnitsa” (“Mycelium” in Russian) that aims to spread much-needed knowledge among reporters from local media that hardly ever get access to such things.

To her, the number of people who have visited an article’s web page isn’t the most important thing. “I don't think that the number of readers is the most important thing in our work. Sometimes, your text is aimed at one person — the governor. And it is important that the governor reads this. Just one person,” she claims.

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Sechina did not become an independent journalist entirely on her own accord. Actually, before 2016 she had spent 14 pretty successful years as a radio host, an editor-in-chief and, finally, programme director of the “Echo of Perm”, a regional partner of the “Ekho Moskvy” (Echo of Moscow) radio station, one of the oldest and most respected broadcasters in Russia at the time.

This abruptly came to an end with the purchase of the station by a businessman who wanted to run for office in the State Duma. “He started to use the station for his own political purposes, so we tried to resist him, but it was not successful. Then he said — you either do the things that we want, or you go. And I left the station, with most of the journalistic team as well,” Sechina recalls.

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“Being a journalist in Russia is difficult primarily because of our laws. I am talking about the law on fake news, the so-called ban on the propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation, the law about foreign media agents, and the law on justification of terrorism and various others,” lists Sechina. “These laws are written in such way that if they want, they can convict you, they will find a reason if they really want to. There are no clear criteria and the application is selective.”

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