Two journalists for Belsat, a Polish-based satellite television station aimed at Belarus, have each been sentenced to two years in prison for reporting live from a rally in Minsk in November, a move seen by the European Union and rights watchdogs as being part of an ongoing crackdown on independent media. On February 18, Judge Natallya Buhuk of the Frunze district court in the Belarusian capital, sentenced Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova after finding them guilty of "organizing public events aimed at disrupting civil order." Also read -- Belarus Escalates Crackdown On Journalists, Activists.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Russia's state-run Rossia TV channel presenter Vladimir Solovyev is banned from entering Latvia for “glorification of Nazism.” This follows statements by Solovyev in which he said that Adolf Hitler did not dodge military service and "fought valiantly during the First World War," juxtaposing Hitler to the Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who he alleges is afraid to serve in the army. Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics wrote that “glorification of Nazism in any form is unacceptable for Latvia.” Speaking to the Russian media, Solovyev said he is preparing to file a lawsuit against Latvia’s decision. Additionally, Solovyev complained to the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor about his account being blocked on the social network Clubhouse, which resulted in Roskomnadzor threatening to fine Clubhouse. (Russian Service/Current Time TV)
Sergei Smirnov, Editor in Chief of independent Russian-language publication Mediazona, filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against Russian authorities. On February 8, the Tverskoi District Court reduced Smirnov’s sentence 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)
Journalists from the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd have been called in for questioning regarding their story about Alena Kitaeva, a volunteer for Navalny Anticorruption Foundation lawyer Lyubov Sobol, who reported being subjected to torture in Moscow’s police department. Kitaeva said that police threatened her with a stun gun, put a bag over her head and forced her to disclose the password for her phone, as well as threatened her with false charges of attacking a police officer. (Russian Service)
A court in Moscow on Tuesday, January 16, denied a lawsuit filed by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also known as “Putin’s Chef, for the protection of honor and dignity, which he filed against the editor-in-chief of Meduza, Ivan Kolpakov; editor-in-chief of the Vladimir newspaper Dovod, Ilya Kosygin; and journalist Maxim Shevchenko. Prigozhin filed a lawsuit for a report in which Shevchenko referred to Prigozhin as a person who “is a twice convicted felon” with one of the charges being “prostitution of minors,” with an accompanied hyperlink to Meduza's article about Prigozhin dated June 9, 2016. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russian parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved in the last reading a bill that envisages fines for those violating the country’s controversial law on "foreign agents." First passed in 2012 and expanded several times since, the law gives authorities the power to brand nongovernmental organizations, human rights groups, news media, and individuals working for organizations deemed to receive foreign funding for political activity as a “foreign agent,” a label that carries pejorative Soviet-era connotations.
Hungary's last remaining independent news radio station has been knocked off the air in Budapest. The country's media authorities refused to extend Klubradio's FM license, saying it "repeatedly infringed" on the compulsory registration law by twice submitting documents late. But Klubradio's director believes it is because the station has often been critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, which has been widely accused of suppressing media freedom. The station's director pledged it would continue to operate online.
A court in Azerbaijan has rejected a journalist's appeal after he was imprisoned on charges of high treason, which he and rights groups have said were politically motivated. The Baku Court of Appeal on February 15 upheld a lower court’s decision to convict Polad Aslanov and sentence him to 16 years in prison. His wife told RFE/RL that the ruling would be appealed in the Supreme Court.
The United Nations said at least 65 journalists and human rights activists have been killed in Afghanistan in the past three years in a series of targeted killings. The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report released on February 15 that the number includes 32 human rights defenders and 33 people working in the media. The report, which tracked the killings from January 2018 to January 2021, comes with violence increasing as Taliban fighters step up their attacks on the government and other targets. (Gandhara)
A statement published on the official website of Ukraine’s Security Service states that blogger Anatoly Shariy “carried out illegal activities to the detriment of Ukraine's national security in the information sphere.” The announcement came out under the procedural guidance of the Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office within the framework of criminal proceedings under articles of “treason” and “violation of equality of citizens depending on their race, nationality, religious beliefs, disability and other grounds.” (Ukrainian Service/Crimea Realities)
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, says the political, security, and economic predicaments in Afghanistan and Pakistan are coming to a head as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden reviews its policies in the two countries. The author of several best-sellers chronicling the cycles of war in Afghanistan and their impact on neighboring countries sits down with Gandhara to talk about whether there's hope for a quick turnaround and if a fresh U.S. approach could steady and eventually resolve the crises in the two countries. (Gandhara)
Famous for his reports on corruption, Rostov journalist Sergei Reznik, citing his sources in law enforcement, said that people involved in his investigations have “ordered” his elimination. Among the people suspected of ordering Reznik’s persecution are companies linked to the managing partner of AFK Sistema, which is a Russian conglomerate company involved in numerous industries. At present, Reznik remains outside of Russia and has been advised not to return. (Russian Service, Caucasus Realities)