Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) protested a Russian court’s rejection today of the first five appeals of fines levied against the public service media outlet for violating regulations mandating intrusive labeling of content seen by its Russian audiences. RFE/RL reaffirmed its commitment to continuing to serve its growing audience in Russia, despite intense Kremlin pressure. U.S. Expresses 'Deep Concern' After Moscow Court Confirms 'Foreign Agent' Fines Against RFE/RL.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Russian journalists Lyudmila Savitskaya, Sergei Markelov, Denis Kamalyagin, and activists Lev Ponomarev and Daria Apakhonchich, who have been designated as “foreign agents” last year, are filing administrative complaints to revoke the decision of the country’s Justice Ministry. They believe that this is discrimination and unjustified interference in both the privacy of personal life and professional journalistic activities. Legal experts believe that such complaints and the court proceedings are necessary, but doubt that the victory is possible on a national level. (Russian Service/Sever.Realii)
Two correspondents from Radio Free Europe/Radio Europe's Tajik service have been attacked in the capital, Dushanbe, while preparing a report on gasoline price hikes. Shahlo Abdullo and Mullorajab Yusufi were attacked on March 4 as they interviewed a driver at a gas station. The journalists said an employee of the gas station approached and demanded they stop the interview. The employee then pushed Abdullo while trying to cover the lens of her video camera.
Freedom House says the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty, and conflicts across the world contributed to the decline of global freedom in 2020. In its annual report released on March 3, the Washington-based human rights watchdog said that the number of countries designated "not free" was at its highest level in 15 years. The country-by-country review said Kyrgyzstan and Belarus were ranked among nations recording the biggest losses in scores for political rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, North Macedonia ranked among nations recording the biggest gains.
A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, an accusation he has rejected. The Lefortovo district court on March 2 ruled that Safronov must be held until at least May 7. The hearing was held behind closed doors, as the case is classified. Safronov, who has worked since last May as an adviser to Roskosmos space agency head Dmitry Rogozin, was previously a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.
A physician and a journalist in Belarus have been convicted of disclosing information that contradicted official statements about the death of a protester killed during a crackdown on demonstrations against authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On March 2, a district court in Minsk sentenced journalist Katsyaryna Barysevich to six months in prison and fined her 2,900 rubles ($1,110) for disclosing medical data and instigating a crime by pushing a first responder to share the information. Doctor Artsyom Sarokin was handed a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to pay a fine of 1,450 rubles ($555) for disclosing the data to Barysevich.
RFERL’s Belarus Service writes, citing a report by Belarusian Association of Journalists, that 481 journalists were detained last year, with most of the detentions related to covering the protests that followed the presidential election in August 2020. Detentions and arrests were often accompanied by violence, damage and confiscation of professional equipment, and removal of footage. (Belarus Service)
A journalist in Siberia whose critical articles often target local authorities says she has fled her city with her daughters amid fears for their safety. Natalya Zubkova, the chief editor of the online newspaper Novosti Kiselyovska (News of Kiselyovsk), said in a statement on YouTube that an unknown man attacked her late on February 25 as she was walking her dog. According to the journalist, the attacker pushed her down and pressed her face against the snow and threatened that she and her daughters would face further violence if "you open your mouth again."
Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta correspondent Ilya Azar was sentenced on March 3 by Moscow’s Tverskoy District court to 15 days in jail and a fine of about $2,000 for a repeat violation of the established procedure for organizing a rally. The case is based on social media posts about protests in Moscow on March 12 against amendments to the Russian Constitution. Azar’s lawyer plans to appeal both verdicts. (Russian Service)
Ukraine’s Central Election Commission has registered five candidates for special parliamentary elections to the parliament scheduled for March 28, 2021, including Yulia Kuzmenko, a suspect in the killing of journalist Pavlo Sheremet. Kuzmenko was arrested on suspicion of involvement in December 2019 and later transferred to house arrest. Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving his apartment en route to a studio where he hosted a morning radio show when an improvised explosive device planted under his vehicle exploded on July 20, 2016, killing him. (Ukrainian Service)
According to human rights defenders, the number of independent media outlets in Crimea has fallen from nearly 3,000 to just over 200 since the peninsula was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014; none of these outlets are independent or Ukrainian. Media experts believe that pro-government media are not in great demand among local residents, who often access alternative points of view such as local bloggers. These bloggers are also subject to visits from FSB security agents, who encourage them to stop undermining the state. Starting on February 26, 2021, RFE/RL Crimea.Realii radio can be heard on medium waves throughout Crimea. (Ukrainian Service/Crimea.Realii)
Three female employees of an Afghan television channel died on March 2 in two separate attacks in the eastern Nangarhar Province. Local officials told RFE/RL that two employees of Enikass TV were shot dead as they walked home in the Zargaran area of the provincial capital, Jalalabad, while the third was shot at almost the same time in Jalalabad's Qasbeh area. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the recent killing of Enikass TV presenter Malala Maiwand and her driver. (Gandhara)
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says that a Taliban commander killed three family members of a slain journalist on February 25 in the central province of Ghor. The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. Journalist Bismillah Adel Aimaq, editor-in-chief at a private radio station in Ghor Province, was shot dead by unknown gunmen on January 1. (Gandhara)
Georgian prosecutors have charged three people for an attack on investigative television journalist Vakho Sanaia, who believes his assailants targeted him over his work. The Interior Ministry said on February 26 that the suspects, who allegedly were drinking before the attack, were charged with violence committed by a group against two or more individuals. Sanaia reports that he and a relative were returning from the Tbilisi airport at night when they were approached by the three suspects in "an aggressive manner" after their car broke down.
Members of various Georgian media outlets and civil society activists have adopted a manifesto calling on the country's authorities to ensure that journalists are able to work safely. The manifesto states that, over the past year, the Georgian media environment has significantly deteriorated, blaming the ruling “Georgian Dream” party for the deterioration. The manifesto also notes an increased number of verbal and physical attacks on journalists, and asserts that “the state propaganda machine has labeled critical media outlets as political opponents and is fueling the escalation of intolerance against them.” (Ekho Kavkaza)
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in partnership with the Conservative Friends of Afghanistan (CFA) hold an online discussion titled the "Media and the Afghanistan Peace Process" to look at how journalists and activists are being killed in a wave of targeted attacks.