Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has reappeared in Paris after fleeing from house arrest in her home country following her on-air anti-war protest last year. The 44-year-old former TV editor for Russian state media broadcast Channel One spoke about her escape to France during a press conference on Friday with Reporters without Borders.
“I didn’t want to emigrate until the very last moment,” Ovsyannikova said. “Russia is still my country, even if war criminals have power there. But I had no choice – it was either prison or exile.”
Fined for protesting
Ovsyannikova was fined for ignoring protest laws and quit her job, but continued speaking out against the war until she was charged with spreading false information for holding up a poster that read “Putin is a murderer, his soldiers are fascists” during a solo demonstration. If found guilty, Ovsyannikova faced up to a decade in prison. Her lawyers advised her to flee the country with her 11-year-old daughter to save their lives.
Christophe Deloire, the Secretary General of Reporters without Borders, helped organize Ovsyannikova’s escape and gave her the codename “Evelyne.” Deloire told BBC that he sent Ovsyannikova a message offering help the day after she went on TV with her anti-war sign.
Finding refuge in France
Ovsyannikova ultimately left on a Friday night, as she calculated that it would be her best chance as Russian security forces had just finished their work week. She left Moscow and took a winding path through Russia, repeatedly switching vehicles to cover her trail.
Ovsyannikova did not say which border she crossed, but she stated that her car got stuck in a muddy field right before reaching the country’s boundary. Ovsyannikova and her daughter had to find their way on foot through fields in the dark night and hide from passing vehicles before reaching the border where people were waiting for them.
After Ovsyannikova’s on-air protest, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would give her asylum. She found a remote house in the countryside, but later moved to different locations as she fears for her life after her Russian friends speculated that she could be poisoned or killed in an orchestrated car accident.
On Friday, Ovsyannikova published a book in German about herself and what she dubs the Russian state propaganda machine.
She writes about how any news regarding Putin cannot be followed by a negative news segment and that the problem is that all of Russia is in an information bubble of orchestrated propaganda.
Ovsyannikova states that there are no independent media and that the only way to access real information is to have a VPN on your mobile phone.