The number of hostile incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists has risen in 2017, as governments and state authorities across Eurasia seek increasing control over their news environments.
On April 2, an RFE/RL Armenian Service journalist was attacked in the capital city Yerevan while reporting on allegations of voter fraud during that day’s parliamentary election. Armenian authorities have charged an individual in the attack.
On May 3, a Baku court continued its proceedings to determine whether to uphold a ban by the Azerbaijani government on claims that RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service website, Azadliq.org, “poses a threat” to Azerbaijan’s national security. The government blocked access to the website on March 27.
Authorities in the city of Vorsha arrested Belarus Service journalist Halina Abakunchyk on March 13 while she was reporting on protests over a controversial tax on the unemployed.
In March 2017, two lawsuits were filed in Kyrgyzstan against RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, after the Service covered statements made by a representative of Kyrgyzstan's opposition at a widely reported press conference.
A reporter for RFE/RL’s Balkan Service was attacked, and her equipment was destroyed, by a group of protesters who stormed the country’s parliament building in the capital, Skopje, on April 28.
Two RFE/RL journalists were beaten in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar on March 28 as they were leaving a hotel in the city to cover a planned protest by farmers.
Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, who contributes to RFE/RL’s Crimea Realities website, is on trial in Russia-occupied Crimea on “separatism” charges, based on a commentary he published in 2015 opposing Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. The court in Simferopol adjourned the trial for the third time on May 3.
RFE/RL freelancer Saparmamed Nepeskuliev remains in prison after being detained in July 2015 and held incommunicado for three months. In a closed trial in August 2015, he was sentenced to three years in prison on narcotics charges that international rights groups have said were brought in retaliation for his journalism.
In December 2016, Turkmen authorities arrested freelancer Khudayberdy Allashov and his mother on charges of possessing chewing tobacco, a commonly consumed product that is not known to have been implicated in prosecutions previously. Both Allashov and his mother we released in February 2017, after receiving suspended prison sentences.
RFE/RL Turkmen freelancer Soltan Achilova was physically attacked in November 2016 and in 2017.
Uzbek authorities continue to harass the family of RFE/RL journalist Farruh Yusupov, whose brother Aziz was sentenced to eight years in prison in August 2016 in connection with his brother’s reporting. A program that aired in late April on state-run Ferghana Regional Television called Farruh Yusupov a “traitor to Uzbekistan.”
Iranian officials have directly threatened RFE/RL journalists.