Ihar Losik, a popular Belarusian blogger, was facing a possible three-year prison term after his June arrest ahead of the disputed presidential election that has triggered a wave of protests -- and a harsh crackdown by the authorities under Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian leader in power since 1994. On December 15, Losik, who is also a new media consultant for RFE/RL, was slapped with fresh charges that could result in an eight-year prison term if he is convicted. In protest, Losik, who has been recognized as a political prisoner by rights activists, launched a hunger strike. His wife, Darya Losik, told Current Time on January 13 her husband's health was deteriorating and that medical attention was minimal.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Two international rights watchdogs have expressed concerns over the inclusion of the five Russian citizens on a controversial list of foreign agents seen by the West as a way for Russian authorities to clamp down on dissent. The UN Human Rights Office and the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media both on January 8 decried the move, saying that it curbs free speech and democratic practices.
Daria Apakhonchich is a former Red Cross volunteer. She has given Russian lessons to migrant and refugee women. And she has used her position as a performance artist to organize events to protect the environment, defend feminist causes, and protest Russian military adventurism. Apakhonchich believes her activities are behind her being among the first individuals to be branded a "foreign agent" by Russia's Justice Ministry on December 28.
Belarus’ Investigative Committee searched the office of the BelaPAN news agency on January 14, as part of a criminal case against journalist and former deputy director of the agency Andrei Aleksandrov. The search lasted for several hours and law enforcement officers seized handwritten notes, documents, several dozen hard drives and a hard drive from a local network server. Alexandrov was detained with his girlfriend on January 12 and charged with “organizing or participating in actions that grossly violate public order.” (Russian Service)
The European Commission's information project EUvsDisinfo has published its annual ranking of the most notable Russian propaganda failures of 2020. The poisoning of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny takes the top spot -- not the poisoning itself, but the “clear lack of professionalism” both on the part of Navalny's poisoners and those who put forward “alternative versions” of what happened. Russia’s fake news about coronavirus and discreditation of the AstraZeneca vaccine is in second place, followed by the fake photos of Belarusian protests passed off as real images by renowned Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Pakistan's government to “disown” a "hate and defamation campaign" against two British media outlets and to prosecute those who have threatened their journalists. Over the past two weeks, thousands of Internet users have called for boycotts of the Urdu-language services of the BBC and The Independent and threatened their journalists, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on January 14.
A TV and print journalist in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has been forced into work on construction sites after he lost his job. Shakirullah used to report on issues such as local militant groups, but says he was laid off after his company decided to downsize. A local trade union leader says media companies are blaming declining advertising revenue for job losses -- but believes journalists are being treated unfairly.
On January 10, an RFE/RL journalist was expelled from a polling station in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty by local election authorities who claimed he did not have a negative COVID test. The incident happened as the country held local and parliamentary elections called “uncompetitive” by international observers.
Sevgil Musaeva, the editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian publication “Ukrainska Pravda,” discusses with Current Time TV the possible motives behind the 2016 car bombing that killed prominent journalist Pavlo Sheremet in 2016. “Ukrainska Pravda” was the first media in Ukraine to publish recordings from 2012 on which “Belarusian security officials” discuss killing Sheremet, a prominent critic of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Telegram has emerged as an essential tool for opposition movements in places like Belarus and Iran and won a huge victory when the Russian authorities gave up on their effort to ban the app after two fruitless years during which senior officials continued to use it themselves. But as the app, which has earned a reputation as a free-speech platform, looks to spread the word in Iran and China, its popularity among messengers of violence and hate remains a concern.
The founder of an independent Belarusian press group and several associates taken into custody last week have been charged with tax evasion and related crimes in a case that comes against the backdrop of a continuing state crackdown on dissent. The daughter of Press Club founder Yulia Slutskaya said via Facebook that her mother had been charged with "large-scale tax evasion." A lawyer for the group confirmed the charges against Slutskaya and said that at least four staff members were being charged as co-conspirators.
Commentators for the Russian TV sports channel Match TV have been told not to use a list of forty Anglicised words in their reporting, including such terms as "performance", "training", "background", "scorer", "keeper", "corner", "shortlist", "like", "loser" and “okay”. At the same time, other Anglicisms such as "outsider", "playmaker", "dribbling", "comeback", "trolling" and "summary" can still be used on the air. No explanation has been offered as to why some words were banned, while others were not. (Russian Service)