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Weekly Digest: News Publishers Protected and Attacked

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

Russian authorities have taken a new step in cracking down on press freedom with an attack on independent investigative outlet Proekt. It was declared an “undesirable” organisation on Thursday, and five Proekt’s journalists were labeled “foreign agents.” 

In recent months, the Russian government has used “foreign agent” designations against some notable news outlets, making it harder for them to operate (Meduza) or even forcing them to close (VTimes). The attack on Proekt, however, is much harsher.

As Meduza points out, the government essentially banned the journalists from reporting and banned the audience from reading the outlet. It’s prohibited to like and share social media posts by an “undesirable” organisation; working for it is considered an administrative offence. Notably, it’s the first time this label has been used against a news outlet in Russia.

Reuters notes that it’s “part of a wider crackdown ahead of September’s parliamentary election” in Russia. The government attacks Proekt because the outlet “has published a series of deeply researched and unflattering investigations into Russia’s ruling elite.”

On Friday, Proekt said it had closed a legal entity formally designated as an “undesirable” organisation and would find a way to operate under the new reality, promising to keep publishing investigations. 

More from The Fix on the latest crackdown on free press in Russia: Meduza counters Russian authorities’ “foreign agent” attack with appeal to readers / Russian Media Outlet VTimes closing after being labeled a “foreign agent”  

The Competition Authority, French antitrust regulator, fined Google €500 million this week for not negotiating “in good faith” with news publishers over the use of their content. 

The fine is a new development in the longstanding conflict between the Silicon Valley company and French authorities. As New York Times puts it, it’s “a victory for media companies that have been fighting to make up for a drop in advertising revenue that they attribute to [Google].”

The fine is the largest ever imposed by the Competition Authority, France24 reports. Moreover, if Google fails to present news publishers with an offer for compensating the use of their content, the company risks paying additional fines.

More from The Fix on the background for the story: French authorities clash with Google over paying for content 

On Thursday, Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries died after being shot last week in Amsterdam.

The motives for the assassination are being investigated, but, from press reports, the killing appears connected to the journalist’s investigations. De Vries was a highly prominent reporter, having hosted a popular TV show for seventeen years and having been involved in high-profile investigative cases. 

As The Guardian notes, the attack on De Vries follows several other killings of investigative journalists in the European Union in the past several years, namely Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece, Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia.

Twitter announced it would shut down “Fleets”, its version of Stories, because of the feature’s low usage. It will be discontinued on August 3rd. “Fleets” were introduced late last year but failed to gain traction.

According to tech journalist Casey Newton’s theory, “Fleets fell into a kind of uncanny valley of product development: they fulfilled a role too similar to tweets to serve a real need”. Twitter has rolled out numerous new products recently, such as audio Spaces, that have proven to be more popular. 

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

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