WASHINGTON, D.C. - Imprisoned Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko has been selected by the Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT-Stiftung as one of this year’s recipients of their Free Media Award for his reporting in Crimea following Russia’s illegal annexation in 2014.
The annual Free Media Award recognizes independent journalists from Eurasia who demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression and democracy under difficult or violent circumstances. Andriy Dubchak, a contributor with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, was also among the recipients for his coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the frontlines of the Donbass region.
“Thank you to the Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT-Stiftung for recognizing the extraordinary courage Vlad has shown in his reporting from Russian-occupied Crimea,” said Jamie Fly, President and CEO of RFE/RL. “Until his detention, Vlad helped open the world’s eyes to the daily cruelty of life under occupation. He should be returned home to his family immediately.”
On March 10, 2021, Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen was detained by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) of the Russian Federation in Simferopol, Crimea. The bureau claimed to have found an object that looked “like an explosive device” in his vehicle and accused Yesypenko of possession and transportation of illegal firearms. While awaiting trial in a detention center in Simferopol, Yesypenko was initially denied legal representation and subjected to agonizing torture by FSB officers who forced him to make a false confession during an interview that aired on Russian television. Yesypenko was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian-controlled court, recently reduced to five years.
Yesypenko is also the recipient of the 2022 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award and wife Kateryna accepted the award on his behalf at the PEN America Literary Gala on May 23.
The award ceremony will be held in Oslo, Norway on October 17.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.