RFE/RL journalists, who report the news in 22 countries that lack a free press, are increasingly under pressure because they believe in the fundamental right “to seek, receive and impart information” enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. On International Human Rights Day, we share 10 of their stories.
1. ‘FOREIGN AGENT’ LAW | RUSSIA
An amended law on “foreign agents” signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 2 ratchets up pressure on the hundreds of correspondents working for RFE/RL in Russia who are too often the only source of reliable information in their remote regions, and who provide one of the few alternatives to Kremlin-controlled news.
2. INTIMIDATION | IRAN
Journalists with Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, and their relatives in Iran, have been targeted by authorities because of Farda’s commitment to provide audiences with independent and uncensored reporting on politics, protests, culture, economics, and minority and human rights.
3. WITHHOLDING OF ACCREDITATION | TAJIKISTAN
The continuing refusal by authorities in Tajikistan to accredit RFE/RL journalists violates their right to work freely and without intimidation, and the rights of Tajik audiences to freely access information.
4. INTIMIDATION | KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyz law enforcement authorities have summoned journalists with RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service for questioning and demanded the surrender of numerous documents after the Service published a report revealing a $700 million money-laundering and smuggling scheme involving the country’s customs service. OCCRP and its local member center Kloop were partners in the investigation.
5. STANISLAV ASEYEV | EASTERN UKRAINE
RFE/RL blogger Stanislav Aseyev has been held incommunicado in Donetsk since the summer of 2017. A separatist-controlled court has reportedly sentenced him to 15 years in a penal colony on extremism and terrorism-related charges in a case that has become emblematic of the Russia-backed conflict in Ukraine’s eastern region.
6. OLEH HALAZIUK | EASTERN UKRAINE
RFE/RL contributor Oleh Halaziuk was detained by Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk and has been held incommunicado since the summer of 2017. There is no information about his whereabouts, his well-being, or the accusations against him.
7. MYKOLA SEMENA | CRIMEA
September 22, 2019, marked two years since Crimean journalist and RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena was convicted by a Russia-backed court on a charge of “separatism” after he published an article protesting Russia’s forcible annexation of the peninsula in 2014. He was given a three-year suspended sentence and banned from journalism.
8. SVETLANA PROKOPYEVA | RUSSIA
Svetlana Prokopyeva, a contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, has been charged with“publically justifying terrorism” because of statements she made for the Ekho Moskvy broadcaster about a teenager’s suicide bombing last fall at Russian Security Service headquarters in Arkhangelsk. She faces seven years in prison.
9. MASKED ‘UMBRELLA MEN’ | KAZAKHSTAN
Masked persons wielding umbrellas and newspapers have repeatedly stepped in front of RFE/RL cameras in Kazakhstan to block shots and obstruct reporting of public protests as police have stood by unwilling to intervene. The incidents, combined with numerous detentions of RFE/RL journalists this year in the cities of Astana, Nur-Sultan, and Zhanaozen, appear to be coordinated by the government to prevent coverage of the unrest.
10. OMURZAK OMARKULIEV | TURKMENISTAN
Turkmen student Omurzak Omarkuliev was last heard from on March 9, 2018, when he was arrested after giving an interview to RFE/RL. His forced disappearance is one of 121 confirmed disappearances documented by the international “Prove They’re Alive!” campaign, and exemplifies the Turkmen government’s ruthless assault on dissent.