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Journalists in Trouble Newsletter

RUSSIA -- RFE/RL Moscow bureau, January 27, 2021

Russian Court Fines RFE/RL Russian-Language Projects For Violating 'Foreign Agent' Law

A Russian court has fined several of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Russian-language projects and the general director of its Russia-based legal entity a total of 1.1 million rubles ($14,500) for failing to comply with new restrictions under the country’s "foreign agent" law. The Tverskoi District Court in Moscow on January 27 ruled in favor of four administrative protocols submitted by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor "for noncompliance by the media performing the functions of a foreign agent with the requirements of the law on labeling information disseminated by them." RFE/RL was fined 1 million rubles by the court, while the Russian entity’s general director was fined 100,000 rubles. Also read: U.S. Lawmakers Call For New Sanctions If Russia Moves Forward With Fines On RFE/RL.


Moscow-based RFE/RL Contributor Detained For Questioning

An acquaintance of RFE/RL Russian Service Contributor Artyom Radygin reported that Radygin was detained in Moscow. Radygin himself managed to report only that he had been "taken away for interrogation in the Alexei Navalny case." Radygin was later released after being served with a summons to return for interrogation as a witness. (in Russian,

RT Chief Editor Margarita Simonyan Proposes To Annex Donbas At A Russia-Backed Separatists Conference In Donetsk

During a Russia-backed separatist organized forum in Donetsk, Ukraine, Russian state-run RT channel editor Margarita Simonyan said "the people of Donbas" want "to be part of their vast, great, generous Motherland. “Margarita Simonyan has been banned from entering Ukraine for some time; as her husband Tigran Keosayan was also present at the conference in Donetsk, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry is now banning Keosayan from entering Ukraine. (Current Time TV/Ukrainian Service)

Media Watchdog Calls For EU Sanctions Over Russia's 'Heavy-Handed' Crackdown On Protests

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the European Union to impose further sanctions on Russian officials after "more than 50 journalists were arbitrarily detained" during nationwide anti-government protests last weekend. The Paris-based media-freedom watchdog made the call on January 26, three days after media covering rallies in support of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny were subjected to an "unusually extensive and heavy-handed" crackdown to "prevent them from showing the scale of support for a government opponent."

Watchdog Calls On Turkey To Halt Expulsion Of Iranian Journalist

A media watchdog has called on Turkey to halt the expulsion of an Iranian journalist sentenced to prison for alleged activities against the regime after criticizing Tehran's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement on January 18 that Mohammad Mosaed contacted the group a day earlier saying he had been detained by Turkish border police after crossing into Turkey from Iran at the eastern border city of Van.

Jailed Belarusian Blogger Losik Ends Hunger Strike After Six Weeks

Ihar Losik, a popular Belarusian blogger, says he has ended a hunger strike he began almost six weeks ago to protest charges that he helped organize riots over a disputed presidential election that has triggered a wave of protests -- and a harsh crackdown by the officials under Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "I have decided to end my hunger strike. Why have I done so? I did it on my own volition.... I was simply moved by the unbelievable wave of solidarity," he said in a statement via his lawyer on January 25.

Belarus Opens Case Against Doctor, Journalists Who Reported That Raman Bondarenko Did Not Have Alcohol In His Blood When He Died

Belarus’ General Prosecutor's Office announced the completion of an investigation into a case of incitement to divulge medical secrets against TUT.BY journalist Yekaterina Borisevich and Emergency Hospital doctor Artyom Sorokin, who is accused of illegally disclosing information about the health of Minsk resident Roman Bondarenko. Bondarenko was beaten into a coma by unknown people in civilian clothes and later died in November 2020. After his death, the Investigative Committee of Belarus said that Bondarenko was "diagnosed with alcohol intoxication." Borisevich, however, published an article opposing the official diagnosis. (in Russian, Current Time TV)

‘Belsat’ Journalist Yekaterina Andreeva’s Arrest Extended For Another Month

RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports that the arrest of “Belsat” TV channel journalist Yekaterina Andreeva has been extended to February 20, after Andreeva was charged under a criminal article with organizing actions that grossly violate public order. Andreeva's husband Igor Ilyash, himself a journalist who was briefly detained, said that the charge brought against Andreeva is "completely unfounded, absurd." Said Ilyash, “Katya was simply taken prisoner because she honestly performed her professional duties.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)

Journalist Reports Pressure From Deputy Matraimov In Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s Super TV journalist Shaista Shatmanova wrote on her Facebook that she was warned by phone not to raise the issue of former Kyrgyz customs official Raimbek Matraimov, who has been accused of involvement in a massive money-laundering operation. She confirmed that Matraimov's brother, Kyrgyz parliament member Iskender Matraimov, was the person who called her with the warning. According to Shatmanova, the warning came after then-Acting President of Kyrgyzstan Talant Mamytov was invited to her TV show, and was sent questions that she planned to ask on-air, some of which related to the allegations against Matraimov. ICYMI: Plunder And Patronage In The Heart Of Central Asia.

Ukraine Denies House Arrest To Suspect Jailed In 2016 Journalist Killing

A Ukrainian court has rejected a request by a suspect jailed in the high-profile 2016 killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet to be transferred to house arrest. Kyiv’s Shevchenko district court on January 19 ordered Andriy Antonenko to be remanded in pretrial detention. Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving his apartment when an improvised explosive device planted under his vehicle exploded on July 20, 2016, killing him. Also read: Experts Confirm Belarus Ex-KGB Chief's Voice On Leaked Audio Plotting Murders.

Pakistani Supreme Court Orders Men Accused In Daniel Pearl Murder Case Freed

Pakistan's Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal against the acquittal of a British-born man who had been convicted for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. A three-judge bench acquitted Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh by a majority of two to one and ordered him to be freed. Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, while three other defendants were handed life sentences for their part in Pearl’s kidnapping and death. (Gandhara)

Sister Of Murdered Afghan TV Journalist Recalls Gunshot Outside The Family Home

The family of murdered Afghan TV journalist Malala Maiwand has spoken to RFE/RL about her death. Maiwand and her driver, Mohammad Tahir, were killed in December 2020 in the city of Jalalabad outside Maiwand's family home. Her sister, Fatima Hilal, recalls hearing gunfire and rushing to the door with her siblings. The Islamic State militant group later claimed responsibility for the killings. (Gandhara)

RSF Denounces ‘Brazen Censorship’ After BBC Withdraws News Show From Pakistani TV

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned “brazen censorship” by Pakistan’s authorities after the BBC recently stopped broadcasting a daily Urdu-language news bulletin on a privately owned Pakistani television channel because of what the British broadcaster called “interference” in its programs. “By deciding to terminate its contract with Aaj TV, the BBC has refused to bow to the dictates that the Pakistani authorities impose on the broadcast media,” Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said in statement on January 25. (Gandhara)

Briefly...Malali Bashir On Reporting From War Zones

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist. RFE/RL has lost four colleagues to targeted attacks since 2018, most recently in December 2020. We ask RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan journalist Malali Bashir about the challenges faced by reporters.

Turkmen Journalist Achilova Among Finalists For Top Human Rights Prize

A 71-year-old Turkmen journalist has been nominated among three finalists for a prestigious human rights award for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva said on January 18 that Soltan Achilova "documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting the Turkmen people in their daily lives."

Vladikavkaz Journalist Identifies His Attackers, Among Them South Ossetia’s Deputy Defense Minister

North Ossetian journalist Ruslan Totrov publicly named the people who attacked him on January 21. Among the named attackers is Sergey Kabisov, the Deputy Minister of Defense of South Ossetia. The Investigative Committee of Russia’s department in North Ossetia has opened a preliminary investigation to check into the incident. A release by the department says that the attack, connected with Totrov’s criticism of South Ossetian leadership, is under the personal control of department head Valery Ustov. On January 21, two men entered Totrov's office and beat him, forcing the journalist to seek medical help. (Russian Service/Kavkaz.Realii)

About Journalists in Trouble

Journalists in Trouble is a monthly report of incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists and their work, and developments affecting press freedom in our coverage region.​

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