Marina Ovsyannikova, protester of Ukraine war on Russian TV, hired by Die Welt

Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been hired by the German media company Die Welt, a month after she drew worldwide attention for bursting onto the set of a live broadcast on Russian state television to protest the war in Ukraine.

Ovsyannikova, 43, was hired as a freelance correspondent for Die Welt’s newspaper and TV channel, publishing firm Axel Springer said Monday.

“WELT stands for what is being so vehemently defended by the courageous people of Ukraine on the ground right now: freedom,” she said in a statement announcing her hiring. “I see it as my duty as a journalist to defend that freedom.”

On March 14, Ovsyannikova ran onto the set of Russian state TV’s flagship program on Channel One while holding a sign that read “NO WAR.” In a prerecorded message before her protest, she said she had a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father and was ashamed of having worked on “Kremlin propaganda” while at Channel One.

“I am ashamed that I’ve allowed the lies to be said on the TV screens. I am ashamed that I let the Russian people be zombified,” Ovsyannikova said in her message.

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A Russian court later found her guilty of organizing an illegal protest and fined her about $360.

Ulf Poschardt, editor in chief of Welt Group, praised Ovsyannikova’s courage in the statement announcing her hiring.

“At a crucial moment, Marina Ovsyannikova had the courage to confront Russian viewers with an unembellished view of reality,” Poschardt said. “In doing so, she defended the most important journalistic ethics — despite the threat of state repression.”

Axel Springer did not indicate whether Ovsyannikova would remain in Russia or report from Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instituted a fresh crackdown on the country’s media following the invasion of Ukraine. Under a law he signed last month, journalists face up to 15 years in prison if they spread what the Kremlin dubs “fake news” — for instance, by using the terms “invasion” or “war” rather than the state-approved “special military operation.”

At least 150 journalists have fled the country, according to a Russian media outlet. While some have pledged to continue reporting in exile, censorship and their physical disconnection from local sources and audiences will hamper their ability to tell Russians the truth about the war, Robert Mahoney, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote in an op-ed last month.

The Kremlin has also blocked or restricted access to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Western media outlets including the British Broadcasting Corp., Germany’s Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe, making it tougher to pierce Putin’s propaganda curtain.

Though Russians can still view news on YouTube and the messaging app Telegram, older Russians tend to get most of their news from traditional sources such as television and newspapers.

Russia was ranked 150th out of 180 countries on the most recent World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders.

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