Russia cracks down on the free press and outlaws Meduza, a leading independent news site.

Russian authorities continued their campaign to stifle press freedom on Thursday, labeling the independent news website Meduza an “undesirable organization” and effectively banning its content. The move made Meduza the latest news outlet to fall victim to the Kremlin’s efforts to suppress criticism.

The Russian prosecutor general’s office said Meduza’s activities posed “a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and the national security of the Russian Federation,” according to the Interfax news agency.

Over the past year, Moscow has intensified its attempts to control coverage of the war in Ukraine. In March, President Vladimir V. Putin signed a law making any public opposition to or independent reporting on the war a criminal offence.

Announcements about the new law pushed some independent Russian media outlets to shut down even before it was enacted. The Russian government also cut off access to Facebook, the BBC and other news sources.

“Russian authorities are showing that they will do anything to prevent the work of one of the leading independent Russian-language media outlets,” said Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy organization. press surveillance. said in a statement.

Meduza, a popular Latvian-based outlet that publishes news about Russia in both Russian and English, often reports critically on the war in Ukraine. He posts on his website and for over a million subscribers on Telegram, in Russia and elsewhere.

The website was blocked in Russia last year at the start of the war, but the new “undesirable” designation has far-reaching consequences. Now anyone in Russia who visits the site, “likes” any of its social media content or shares a link to an article could face fines or jail time.

Meduza editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov called the designation a “very bad event” but said “nevertheless, we were waiting for this to happen, and we tried to prepare.”

The site plans to continue publishing, though its future plans are unclear.

Even before the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow had labeled Meduza a “foreign agent,” cutting off his ad revenue and forcing him to switch to a crowdfunding model to stay in business. As a foreign agent, Meduza had to add a 24-word disclaimer about his new status to all Russian-language content about him, including social media posts. If he did not, the organization and its journalists could be fined or jailed.

In June, the independent business news site VTimes to turn off after the designation of Russia as a foreign agent hurt his business and made it difficult for reporters to work. And in August, the government added TV Rain, long a major independent outlet, and the news site iStories to the list of foreign agents.

Other independent news sources have felt pressure from Moscow’s efforts to censor their coverage, even as they see a new urgency to provide unfiltered information.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a news network originally created as a CIA operation early in the Cold War, is one example. The Russian invasion of Ukraine last February rocked Radio Free Europe’s operations and highlighted the importance of its mission.

A few days after the invasion, the organization suspended its operations in Russia. He had faced years of mounting pressure from Moscow and had already evacuated most of his staff to Prague and other offices even before the war broke out.

Jamie Fly, the station’s president and chief executive, said his organization had been in firefighting mode for a long time.

“The challenge we are facing now, and the invasion of Ukraine, is just the latest iteration,” Fly said in an interview late last year. “We are under increasing pressure when we operate in these environments, and in some cases, we are thrown out of countries. That has always been a challenge for us.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting.