Pussy Riot Members Create New Media Site

By Candice Norwood

Nadya Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 26, two of the more visible members of the controversial Russian punk band Pussy Riot, have taken the media into their own hands by launching MediaZona, an independent news publication that will focus on the Russian justice system.

The website, which is completely in Russian, gives updates on developments in the Russian courts, prisons and law enforcement. It also includes a section with longer, more in-depth stories that highlight problems within Russia’s correctional system.

The site will be housed under the organization Zona Prava, “Zone of Rights,” which the women created in 2013 to assist people being exploited in prison camps.

“Since our release from prison six months ago we’ve felt that Russian media are no longer able to cover what is going on,” Tolokonnikova explained in a press release. “There is no space for anything in the media that criticizes Putin’s policies and tracks human rights abuses by Russian courts and law enforcement,” she said. “Our new media outlet will try to cover it all.”

Pussy Riot punk band.

Pussy Riot punk band.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina entered the spotlight in 2012 when Russian police arrested the women after they attempted to perform with other members at a cathedral in Moscow. Their arrests drew international criticism and protests, returning attention to the Russian government’s treatment of citizens.

Even throughout their 21-month sentence in Russia’s Penal Colony No. 14, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina continued to voice their complaints, even participating in a hunger strike to protest the colony’s conditions.

“The penal colony refuses to hear me. But I, in turn, refuse to back down from my demands,” Tolokonnikova wrote in an open letter, published in The Guardian newspaper. “I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like condition.”

Following their December 2013 release, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina got right to work with interviews, and they even staged a performance protest during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, reported Russia Today.

It is unclear what lasting affect their media venture will have. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have not shared how their MediaZona team plans to obtain information and sources in a country that has little media freedom.  They do, however, have a strong network of support ranging from young adults to major global organizations such as Amnesty International. With a steady stream of new content and a political journalist named Sergey Smirnov as MediaZona’s editor-in-chief, their news outlet could take a stand against the state-run media.

If these women have demonstrated anything over the past several years, it’s that they do not intend to back down.

Photograph by Denis Bochkarev from Wikimedia Commons.

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