News of the Day: 1 January 2021

RFE/RL: In a year marked by tightened restrictions and unrest, Telegram sent a clear message to authoritarian governments who tried to keep it quiet in 2020. But as the app, which has earned a reputation as a free-speech platform, looks to spread the word in Iran and China, its popularity among messengers of violence and hate remains a concern. Telegram has emerged as an essential tool for opposition movements in places like Belarus and Iran and won a huge victory when the Russian authorities gave up on their effort to ban the app after two fruitless years during which senior officials continued to use it themselves. But protesters and open media are not the only ones who find sanctuary in a tool like Telegram. Terrorists, hate groups, and purveyors of gore also see the benefits of encrypted group chats that can reach large audiences without censorship.

Meduza: In the late evening hours of Tuesday, December 29, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee announced felony fraud charges against Anti-Corruption Foundation founder Alexey Navalny and “other individuals.” The opposition figure and his colleagues are suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of rubles in donations to their organizations “to buy property and valuables” for themselves. Pro-Kremlin bloggers have circulated these same allegations for years without ever presenting convincing evidence. Meduza examines the biggest questions about the Russian authorities’ new case against Navalny, which comes just weeks after he accused President Putin of personally ordering his assassination. 

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