Apple removes, then restores popular Russian podcast after backlash

Thousands of Russians are listening to Meduza’s popular daily podcast but the show was suddenly removed from the Apple Podcasts platform last week. It’s now been restored – but what happened?

Despite the fact that the Russian government controls state media and censors independent news coverage, a lot of people, hungry for independent analysis, are listening to Meduza’s show “What Happened” every week.

But the podcast, created by Meduza – which is an independent news website not officially available in Russia and operating from Riga, capital of Latvia, suddenly disappeared from Apple Podcasts on the night of August 5th.

Obviously, “What Happened”, just like all other Meduza’s podcasts, are always available on the Meduza website and app. Thousands of Russians access foreign news with the help of virtual private networks (VPNs).

But earlier in July, the Russian state censorship authority Roskomnadzor, contacted Apple, the US tech corporation, with the demand to block the podcast. Roskomnadzor claimed that Meduza, designated in January 2023 as an “undesirable organization” and banned in Russia, had violated the law.

So did the removal of the show from the Apple Podcasts platform mean that the tech company decided to comply with Moscow’s wishes?

“We found an issue with your show, Что случилось [What Happened], which must be resolved before it’s available on Apple Podcasts. Your show has been removed from Apple Podcasts,” Apple told Meduza.

However, two days after the show was removed from the platform, “What Happened” was restored. Despite a reason not being given, public pressure probably helped.

“What Happened” is Meduza’s daily Russian-language news show about “news that remain important long after they stop being news.” Its host, Vladislav Gorin, discusses the most pressing issues in Russian society with leading independent experts.

As The Guardian reported in January, the restrictions on Meduza in Russia are so severe that even sharing links to the outlet’s reporting can be considered a crime. People who wish to support the news organization financially also risk being fined.

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