Journalists covering Russia’s space program believe they may be more circumspect in their reporting now that many areas of Roscosmos have effectively been designated off-limits. An order issued by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on October 11 lays out the information that could be utilized to damage national security if obtained by foreign citizens or organizations.
The directive does not particularly specify news collecting. It is not a blanket prohibition on coverage of Roscosmos. Still, journalists warn they could violate the order in the digital age, where reporting is distributed online or through social media. It’s also part of Russia’s foreign agent legislation, which has ramifications for the media.
The FSB outlines content from intelligence, military, and space programs that it claims might be used to endanger security in a 60-page report. Financial details, project timetables, and some of Roscosmos’ space initiatives are among the topics covered, as are details on the space agency’s ambitions and restructure and information on new materials and technologies. In response to a request for clarification on how the new directive would influence foreign and domestic reporting, Roscosmos referred VOA to the FSB. VOA reached out to the FSB for comment, but they did not answer.
According to independent journalists and media analysts, the order is a “tightening of the screw” that will make it more difficult to report on the space program transparently and impartially. According to Alexander Khokhlov, who works as a space and science journalist who contributes to TV Rain and Meduza, the new measures may limit his coverage. As a precaution, Khokhlov stated that he might be forced to focus solely on the news from Western agencies and organizations.
“I rarely discuss the themes named in the FSB’s order; yet, their scope is quite vast. I shall also refrain from writing about or commenting on Roscosmos’ activities,” Khokhlov, who is also a member of Russia’s Northwestern Federation of Cosmonautics, stated. “I might as well concentrate on SpaceX and its incremental progress toward constructing a colony on Mars,” Khokhlov added, alluding to US entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space venture.
According to Khokhlov, who has covered Russia’s space missions and the emergence of the private space industry in the United States, the limitations may limit what science reporters can cover. “The hazards are already clear for those trying to give an alternate point of view,” Khokhlov said, describing it as “yet another stride toward the info vacuum in the sphere of cosmonautics in Russia.” He noted the huge number of journalists who have been classified as international agents in the last year as an example.
The Ministry of Justice website, as of October 15, names 56 journalists and 32 news outlets as foreign agents, such as independent networks that are members of the US Agency for Global Media.