Journalist Fyodor Khudokormov was broadcasting live from protests in Moscow following the court's decision to sentence Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny to prison. Even though he managed to say that he was a journalist and showed his press card, a riot policeman hit him twice on the head with his baton. Earlier, police denied accredited Current Time TV journalists access to the courthouse where Navalny's case was being heard. During a rally on January 31, a Current Time TV journalist was threatened by a policeman with a rubber baton to his face. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with a group of ambassadors from the Group of Seven (G7) and the European Union to defend his government’s decision to shut several television channels controlled by a Russia-linked magnate, a move supported by Washington but questioned by Brussels and slammed by Moscow. Zelenskiy told the group in Kyiv on February 3 that the decision to block the 112, NewsOne, and ZIK channels was justified by the need to "fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena."
A Moscow court has sentenced Sergei Smirnov, the chief editor of the Mediazona news website, to 25 days in jail after finding him guilty of "repeated violations" of the law on mass gatherings. The Tverskoi district court announced its ruling on February 3, sparking a chorus of condemnation from Russian media outlets as well as international watchdogs. Smirnov was detained on January 30 near his home when, he says, he went out for a walk with his son. He was released shortly afterward but charged with violating the law on rallies.
By the time the January 31 protests were over, at least 82 journalists had been detained in cities across the country, according to the Open Media website, which is funded by exiled opposition businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, citing the nonstate Union of Journalists and Media Workers. A protest and police-response monitor, OVD-Info, put the number of journalists detained at 91. At the same time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he does not consider the arrests of journalists on January 31 during the protests to be massive.
Andrei Afanasyev, a freelance correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service, was briefly detained as he traveled to cover anti-government protests in Russia's Far East city of Blagoveshchensk. The journalist, who was in possession of a press pass and proof that he was on assignment, was stopped by traffic police on January 31 ahead of nationwide protests against the jailing of prominent activist and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.
The Military Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by Pskov-based contributor to the RFE/RL Russian Service project North.Realities, Svetlana Prokopyeva, who was fined 500,000 RBL (about $6,600) under the article on justifying terrorism. The prosecutor at the hearing told the court that Prokopyeva is a "mouthpiece of the West," as she cooperates with foreign media. In November 2020, Prokopyeva was honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) with its annual International Press Freedom Award. (Russian Service/Sever.Realii)
Members of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council and members of the Union of Journalists of Russia are planning to hold meetings with security officials and remind them to observe the rights of journalists. Current Time TV talked about this initiative with Human Rights Council member and head of the Association of Internet Publishers, Ivan Zasursky. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russian media reports that, for the third time, Russia’s Investigative Committee for the Nizhny Novgorod Region refused to open a criminal case into the suicide of journalist Irina Slavina, who died in October after setting herself on fire in an apparent reaction to being investigated by authorities. According to the family’s lawyer Alexander Karavaev, the decision was made on the basis of a psychological and psychiatric examination of Slavina, carried out after her death. The document says that the journalist's suicide is "a kind of manipulation by society," and that she committed self-immolation "of her own free will, in the form of a protest against the backdrop of the idea of fighting the current government." (Russian Service)
The Vyasna human rights center in Belarus says police in Minsk have released a Swiss journalist from custody who was detained earlier on January 31 in the Belarusian capital. The rights group said it received information from the Swiss Embassy in Minsk at about 5 p.m. local time that journalist Luzia Tschirky had been released from a police station. Tschirky is a correspondent for the Swiss public broadcaster SRF who covers Russia, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics.
Police in Kazakhstan's northwestern city of Oral have prevented journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov and several activists from traveling to the western city of Atyrau, where they planned to greet outspoken government critic Maks Boqaev upon his release from prison on February 4. Activists in Oral told RFE/RL that Akhmedyarov, the chief editor of the independent newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, was stopped by police on his way to Atyrau on February 3 and held for questioning in an unspecified case.
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has apologized to a Polish journalist who accused one of the ministry's officers of sexual harassment and pressuring her to write positive articles about the Central Asian nation in exchange for having her press accreditation prolonged. The ministry also said on February 2 that the employee who was accused of sexually harassing journalist Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska had been fired.
Tajik journalist Daler Sharifov, who was sentenced to one year in prison in a case media watchdogs labelled "absurd," has been released after serving his time. Sharifov's relatives told RFE/RL that the independent journalist was released on January 29 and was currently with his family in his native city of Vahdat. Sharifov, who writes about domestic politics and religious issues, was sentenced in April 2020.
Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a journalist working for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, was killed in a targeted bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, on November 12, 2020.