The United States has called the arrest of a journalist in Russian-annexed Crimea for allegedly spying on behalf of Kyiv "another attempt to repress those who speak the truth about Russia's aggression in Ukraine." "Russia continues to prosecute Ukrainian activists and target independent voices on the peninsula," State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted late on March 17. The tweet came one day after Vladislav Yesypenko, who holds dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenship and is a freelance contributor to RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, was arrested on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Ihar Losik, a popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant jailed in Belarus since last June on charges his supporters say are trumped up, has ended a hunger strike and is now in solitary confinement. Losik ended his hunger strike on March 15, his wife, Darya Losik, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service. U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Helsinki Commission, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, Lithuanian Seimas Speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media, among others, have called for Losik’s release.
Journalism watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned Russia for imposing "exorbitant" fines on several Russian-language services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, saying the country's "foreign agent" law was "absurd" and "designed to silence" independent and opposition media in the country. Russia’s state media-monitoring agency Roskomnadzor has opened more than 260 cases against RFE/RL Russian-language news services for failing to mark written and broadcast materials in accordance with the onerous regulations.
A bipartisan group of top U.S. Senators has called on President Vladimir Putin to halt Russia’s “state-sponsored assault on media freedom” through the targeting of RFE/RL. In a March 12 statement, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took aim at the deteriorating media environment in Russia and a clampdown on U.S.-funded RFE/RL under a controversial "foreign agent" law. Russia’s state media-monitoring agency Roskomnadzor has opened more than 260 cases against RFE/RL Russian-language news services for failing to mark written and broadcast materials in accordance with the onerous regulations.
The Moscow City Court has upheld a lower court decision to extend the pretrial detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, until May 7. The appeal of a March 2 ruling by Moscow's Lefortovo district court to extend Safronov's detention was held on March 18 behind closed doors, as the case is classified. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May 2020 as an adviser to the head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, is a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.
The independent Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta has called on Moscow authorities to investigate a "chemical attack" against its premises after a security camera recorded a person spraying its office entrance with an unknown liquid. The media outlet, which shares the premises with several other companies in the Russian capital, demanded the investigation on March 16, a day after a strong chemical odor swept through the building. In an interview to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, said “this is a terrorist attack.”
A court in Belarus has sentenced RFE/RL freelance graphic designer Liza Hancharova and her father, Alyaksandr Hancharou, to 15 days in jail on charges of taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration. On March 15, the Central District Court in Minsk found the two guilty of taking part in an unsanctioned rally on March 13. Both have rejected the charges, saying they were not taking part in the protest but had been arrested by police while they were nearby by chance.
Former employee of the Russian state-run news channel RT, Daniel Lange, claims that the broadcaster is trying to ban his book about Russian propaganda. Lange, a British TV journalist, worked for two years with RT’s German branch. He resigned in 2021 and at the same time published a book, “Inside RT Deutsch - Putin's Media Army in Germany.” Lange claims that he received assignments from his superiors that had nothing to do with journalism. According to him, he was assigned to follow Alexei Navalny, who was taken to Berlin for treatment after being poisoned in Russia, citing correspondence with editors in the RT DE working chat as evidence. Now Lange claims that the leadership of RT DE has launched a “smear campaign” against him and is trying to remove his book from sale. (Russian Service)
Journalists in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, where demonstrations in support of the region's jailed former governor have been held since July last year, have started so-called "silent broadcasts" to avoid prosecution. Many journalists in Khabarovsk were detained while covering the protests in recent months, although they say they had all of the documents needed to prove that they were doing their jobs. Some were either fined or jailed for several days for what local courts judged as the "participation in unsanctioned rallies."
When Pakistani road workers discovered human remains on their construction site in North Waziristan in early March, they unearthed more than the bones of an elderly teacher who was abducted and killed 13 years ago. The victim, Muhammad Salam, was also a potential witness to the 2006 killing of Hayatullah Khan -- a journalist who had been reporting details of a military operation against Al-Qaeda militants sheltering in the area. (Gandhara)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling for a full investigation into the most recent attack on an exiled Azerbaijani video blogger who has been critical of the government in Baku. Mahammad Mirzali, who runs the Made In Azerbaijan YouTube channel, was beaten and stabbed on March 14 by a group of men in France, the New York-based media rights group said on March 16. The CPJ said Mirzali was attacked on March 14 by six men while walking in downtown Nantes in western France. He was stabbed at least 16 times and is currently in the hospital with severe injuries.