The Listening Post

COVID-19 in Russia: Fake News and Forced Confessions

Selective application of ‘fake news’ law in Russia leaves journalists and others vulnerable. Plus, bloggers in Belarus.

On The Listening Post this week: The selective application of a “fake news” law in Russia leaves journalists and citizens vulnerable. Plus, bloggers in Belarus take on the role of journalists.

COVID-19 in Russia: Fake News and Forced Confessions

Russia is currently in third place in the list of countries with the most confirmed coronavirus cases. The official figure exceeds half a million. But that is in dispute as is the country’s fatality rate which, last month, was seven times below the global average. Truth is a casualty of the coronavirus war and the Kremlin itself is trying to get a grip on a glut of conspiracy theories and fake news about COVID-19 that gets shared online and then seeps into mainstream reporting. On April 1, the government equipped itself for the job. President Vladimir Putin hastily signed off on legal changes that enable the authorities to go after those they accuse of spreading fake news. Which, when you examine some of the sketchy COVID-related data being produced by the Russian government, is a little rich.


Liliya Yapparova – Investigative Journalist, Meduza
Vlad Strukov – Professor, University of Leeds
Precious Chatterje-Doody – Lecturer, Open University
Sarkis Darbinyan – Chief Legal Officer, Roskomsvoboda

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about the six-year prison sentence Filipino journalist Maria Ressa now faces, and; the way Chinese and Indian media have covered clashes at the Sino-Indian border.

Belarusian bloggers: Breaking the media mould

What do you do if you are from Belarus and want to learn about the pandemic? You have a president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has long refused to accept the existence of COVID-19, let alone that it was killing people. Your mainstream news outlets are no good to you – the president brought them to heel long ago and they are telling people to get on with life as normal. So you go online – YouTube, Telegram – where bloggers are doing the job of journalists. Engaging young audiences, giving them the data they need right now and making President Lukashenko nervous, since he has an election coming up. The Listening Post‘s Johanna Hoes reports on Belarus’s bloggers, the kind of work they do and the impact they are having in a country where political change has been a long time in coming.


Stepan Svyatlou – Founder, NEXTA
Andrei Bastunets – Chair, Belarusian Association of Journalists
Ekaterina Andreeva – Reporter, Belsat TV