OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project documenting political persecution in Russia. With the help of a hotline, they collect information about detentions at public rallies and other cases of political pressure, publish news and coordinate legal assistance to detainees.
The organisation was set up in 2011 to document arrests during the widespread anti-fraud protests. Initially, groups of journalists and specialists collected and published information about the arrests on social media. As the organisation grew and became more structured they eventually set up a website. The organisation has now evolved to offer legal guidance and support to people arrested at peaceful protests in Russia.
Over the last year, censorship has increased in Russia with many media sites blocked. In September 2021, OVD-Info was labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ by Russian authorities. This means that the organisation must add a disclaimer to any work they publish: “THIS NEWS MEDIA/MATERIAL WAS CREATED AND/OR DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND/OR A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT.” Their website was later blocked by Russian authorities because they claimed that news about detained people glorified terrorism and extremism.
During the ongoing war in Ukraine and associated anti-war protests in Russia, OVD-Info’s work is more important than ever. Within the first 10 days of the war, OVD-Info registered more than 13,000 arrests at anti-war protests in Russia. In March 2022, Marina Ovsyannikova interrupted the Russian state Channel One while holding a sign saying “Stop the war. No to war.” Following her on-screen protest, OVD-Info released a pre-recorded video by Ovsyannikova where she explained her motivations.
Despite a highly unpredictable situation and persistent censorship, OVD-Info continue to support detained and persecuted protesters in Russia.