The Meduza Project, an independent Russian-language news site, launched Monday with an app in hand.
The new project, spearheaded by former Lenta.ru Editor-in-Chief Galina Timchenko, is meant to provide Russia with an alternative to state-run media.
Because the Kremlin can easily ask Internet providers to ban websites within Russia, the Meduza Project looked toward mobile for ways around possible censorship. It will offer users a website and an app to read news on handheld devices to ensure constant access to the site’s content. Currently, there isn’t a practical way to restrict access to apps.
On Tuesday, the Meduza Project announced on Twitter that the site was already blocked in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. The tweet advised users to view the site on their iOS or Android devices.
To further avoid issues of running an independent news site in Russia, the Meduza Project’s headquarters are based in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
The website will publish original content and aggregate news from other Russian-language media sources.
“Meduza is a pirate ship, a small, mobile media organization,” the project’s co-founder Ivan Kolpakov told The Calvert Journal. “Media which tries to produce quality journalism — both news and reporting journalism.”
The Meduza Project has been in the works for more than four months, and Timchenko officially announced the online project in an interview with Forbes Russia in September. Timchenko began the project after media magnate Alexander Mamut fired her from Lenta.ru following a disagreement over the popular news site's coverage of the crisis in Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s stronghold on the media skewed most news coverage of the conflict, and editorial teams across Russia began to step down because of the government’s pressure to produce only pro-Kremlin stories.
Timchenko and her team of 20 former Lenta.ru reporters have remained secretive about the Meduza Project and its investors to avoid potential blowback.
“I can’t tell you whether those financing the Meduza Project are Russian or foreign,” Kolpakov told The Calvert Journal. “There’s a huge discussion about our investors among Russian journalists, with some saying we have to tell people who they are. Yes, in a fairer world we probably should, but not in Russia in 2014. We have to protect our product and we have to protect our investors.”