The Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty yesterday demanded that Russia respect its international legal obligations under the investment treaty between the Czech Republic and Russia by treating RFE/RL’s operations in Russia fairly, with due process, and in a non-discriminatory manner. RFE/RL has asked Russia to immediately engage in consultations in an effort to resolve their differences.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Two journalists are standing trial in Belarus over their reporting on the mass unrest that has shaken the country since a presidential election in August widely seen as rigged. The court cases are the latest phase of an ongoing crackdown on free media in the country. At least 10 journalists are currently being held by the authorities on charges that are widely seen as politically motivated. Also watch: Belarusian Journalists Go On Trial, Charged With Organizing Anti-Government Protests.
Russia's federal media regulator has ordered media outlets, including RFE/RL's Russian Service and Current Time TV, to delete all reports about a planned mobile-phone "flashlight" protest against the jailing of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The official order from Roskomnadzor was received by media groups on February 12. It says Russian authorities consider any reporting about the planned flashlight protest to be a call for people to take part in an unsanctioned public demonstration and mass disorder.
Relatives of slain journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko –who were shot dead on July 30, 2018, while in the Central African Republic filming a documentary about the Russian paramilitary group Vagner – strongly oppose the installation of a monument at the site of their death. The proposal came a little over one month ago from Russian tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has extremely close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and suggested erecting a monument in honor of the friendship between Russia and the CAR, and offered to bear the costs. (Russian Service)
"Navalny is so inconsequential and is of such little importance to anyone, that propagandists talk more about him than about Putin" -- RFE/RL’s Russian Service compiles reactions of Russian bloggers who, with strong irony, note that Russian state media appears to be investing significant energy to boosting public recognition of arrested opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. (Russian Service)
The Pecherskyi District Court in Kyiv has again denied Serhiy Ishchenko, driver of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service investigative program Schemes the right to privacy – and has instead sided with former member of parliament and former Deputy Chief of Staff to the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Andriy Portnov, who refuses to remove the personal data he posted belonging to Ishchenko. The court also ordered Ishchenko to reimburse Portnov roughly $2,045 for his legal fees. Another driver for Schemes, Borys Mazur, whose personal data was also disclosed by the ex-official, said that “with this decision, the state, represented by the court, for the second time recognized the dissemination of personal data as legal.” (Ukrainian Service/Schemes)
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reports that Latvia has decided to shut off 16 more Russian TV channels, as the channels have no known legal representative in the country as of February 1. Earlier on February 8, the National Electronic Media Council of Latvia announced a ban on the retransmission of the Russian state-run RTR channel. It was noted that the decision was made due to identified violations of the law related to incitement to hatred, incitement to violence, and provocation of military conflict. (Ukrainian Service)
On February 8, the Tverskoi District Court reduced the sentence of Mediazona editor-in-chief, Sergei Smirnov, to 15 days from an initial 25. Five days earlier, the court had sentenced Smirnov after finding him guilty of "repeated violations'' of the law on mass gatherings, sparking a chorus of condemnation from Russian media outlets as well as international watchdogs. Smirnov was detained in Moscow on Saturday, January 30, while walking with his son. (Russian Service)
The daughter of the late Russian journalist Irina Slavina, who died in early October after setting herself on fire in an apparent reaction to being investigated by authorities, has shut down Koza.Press, her mother's online newspaper. Margarita Murakhtayeva on February 10 called her decision "not easy, but right," and expressed gratitude to journalists who had supported the newspaper and contributed to it since her mother's death four months ago. Koza.Press, created by Slavina in 2015, focused on shortcomings in the work of local authorities, cases of political persecution, and the illegal removal of historic buildings in the Nizhny Novgorod region.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Russia to immediately release a journalist and blogger who was detained after attending a rally in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in the eastern region of Buryatia last month. "Russian authorities should release journalist Dmitry Bairov, drop all charges against him, and allow journalists in Russia cover political protests freely and without a fear of being prosecuted by the state," Gulnoza Said, the media watchdog's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement on February 10.
Hungary's last independent radio station has lost an appeal to keep its license after the country’s media regulator said it had violated a compulsory registration law. Klubradio President Andras Arato said on February 9 that its appeal at the Metropolitan Court in Budapest to force the media regulator NMHH to issue a temporary broadcasting license has been turned down. "The decision, although expected, was shameful and cowardly," Arato said, adding that while the radio station stop broadcasting via the airwaves, it will continue its programming online.
Dozens of Pakistani journalists staged a protest in the capital, Islamabad, on February 8 to demand the reopening of a private television channel taken off air by the country's media regulator last month. Bol News TV was fined and had its license suspended for 30 days for airing what the regulator described as contemptuous remarks about the judges of a high court. The channel insisted that its program content was in accordance with the rules and guidelines of the regulatory authority. (Gandhara)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has joined other rights organizations in condemning the arrest of Uzbek video blogger Otabek Sattoriy, calling the extortion case against him "dubious" and urging the Central Asian country's government to drop all charges and release him. "Otabek Sattoriy's blogging on sensitive issues such as alleged corruption and farmers' rights has put him in local authorities' crosshairs," Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at HRW, said in a statement on February 12. "Uzbek authorities should release Sattoriy, drop the charges for lack of evidence, and respect and protect freedom of expression," Rittmann added.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an independent and transparent investigation into the beating of Bulgarian freelance journalist Dimitar Kenarov while in police custody in September 2020. “We condemn the Sofia police’s refusal to reexamine this journalist’s arbitrary and violent arrest, and the absurd and dystopian narrative, worthy of George Orwell, being used by the authorities,” Pavol Szalai, the head of the Paris-based media freedom watchdog’s European Union and Balkans desk, said in a statement on February 11.
Ruslan Totrov, a North Ossetian journalist and political editor of the OsNova website, was taken under state protection following a physical attack on him after the publication of a series of programs about the socio-political crisis in the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia. The investigation into the attack suggests that the injuries Totrov sustained were inflicted by South Ossetia’s Deputy Defense Minister Sergei Kabisov. (Russian Service/Caucasus.Realities)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Azerbaijan to provide urgent medical assistance to a journalist who has been in prison for 19 months and on a hunger strike for more than a week. Polad Aslanov’s “already poor health is now failing after eight days on hunger strike to press his demand for a fair trial and transfer to house arrest,” the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on February 9. RSF said Aslanov weighed only 44 kilograms when he began the hunger strike and he is now complaining of kidney and stomach pains.
This year Kazakhstan is expected to allocate more than $126 million (53 billion tenge) to promote the "information policy" of the state, with over $4.7 million going to finance state print media. Journalist and media critic Nazira Darimbet criticized the large sum allocated for "information policy," seeing it as creating an avenue that will allow the government to interfere in editorial policy. (Kazakh Service)
On February 12, Kyrgyzstan’s Investigative Journalism Foundation announced the winners of the competition for the Ulan Egizbaev Annual Award for Best Investigative Journalism. This is the third year that the award has been issued. It is named after Ulanbek Egizbaev, an RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service investigative reporter, who died in an apparent drowning on July 22, 2018, on holiday with his family at Lake Issyk-Kul. (Kyrgyz Service)