“RFE/RL applauds this ruling, which protects the confidentiality of journalistic communications and sets limits for executive power,” said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. Fly continued, “The work of investigative journalists, by its nature, is hard and often dangerous. Such journalism empowers the public to hold authorities accountable for their actions. Credible investigative journalism cannot be done in an atmosphere of official impunity, and without the certainty that exchanges between source and journalist will remain private.”
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Vladimir Pozner, a veteran TV journalist and commentator working for Russian state TV, cut short a visit to Georgia after his arrival sparked protests in Tbilisi on March 31. Pozner, accompanied by about 30 Russian journalists and celebrities, was planning to celebrate his 87th birthday and stay in the country until April 3. His bus and hotel were pelted with eggs as angry crowds accused him of being a Kremlin propagandist. Russian troops have been stationed in the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since a five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008.
A group of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress has condemned the “unjust and illegitimate detainment” of Ihar Losik, a popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant jailed in Belarus, calling for his immediate release in the latest show of support from the highest echelons of government. In a letter addressed to Losik on March 26, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said they stand “shoulder to shoulder” with him, his family, and all other Belarusians struggling in the country’s pro-democracy movement.
Since Belarus’ August 9 presidential election and the massive protests that followed, the authorities have waged a war against journalists, who have been detained more than 300 times, with 65 people sentenced to from 3 to 30 days in jail, some receiving longer sentences, and others being held for months on end in pre-trial detention, including RFE/RL Belarus Service consultant Ihar Losik. The Belarusian Association of Journalists tracks all cases of harassment of journalists; this list focuses on the plight of those still behind bars. (Belarus Service)
Current Time TV’s Footage Vs. Footage program spoke with Russian media expert Konstantin Eggert about how the current conflict between Moscow and Washington, including U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent statement calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer,” is being used by Russian propaganda. Eggert says Russian state propaganda outlets are acting very aggressively, knowing that comments from Biden upset Putin. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Belarusian authorities have "escalated" repression against independent media over the past five months, as "part of the government's efforts to silence media reporting on human rights violations and peaceful, countrywide protests" that have rocked Belarus in the wake of an August election, the New York-based human rights watchdog said in a report published on March 29. The Belarusian opposition and the West say the August vote, which authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed extended his rule for a sixth term, was rigged, and are demanding fair elections and justice for abuses that have occurred since the vote.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it fears that a detained Crimean journalist’s televised “confession” to spying on behalf of Ukraine was obtained under torture and has called for his immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him. In a statement on March 26, Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, expressed concern about “the psychological and physical pressure” RFE/RL freelancer Vladislav Yesypenko has been subjected to. Cavelier also condemned the ban on access to his lawyer.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on Kazakhstan to drop a criminal case against a blogger and journalist who went on trial earlier this month on charges of participating in the activities of a banned organization. In a statement on March 31, the New York-based media freedom watchdog urged Kazakh authorities to immediately release Aigul Otepova from house arrest, drop the charges against her, and “allow her to work safely and freely.” Journalists in Kazakhstan “should not be persecuted for their independent reporting, and it is authorities’ responsibility to ensure journalists’ safety, not to intimidate and pressure them,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna.
Hakob Arshakyan, Armenia’s Minister for High-Tech Industry, resigned on March 31, following a March 19 incident in which Arshakyan hit a journalist and damaged the journalist’s property while at a cafe in Yerevan. The journalist, who recorded the incident on a video camera, approached Arshakyan while he was dining and asked why he wasn't working during working hours. The minister replied that he is always working, to which the journalist replied that officials have fixed working hours. Following that, Minister Arshakyan followed the journalist to the second floor of the cafe, hit him and pushed his computer off of a table. (Armenian Service)
An Istanbul court has handed life sentences to two former Turkish police commanders and two top ex-security officers over the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink 14 years ago. Dink, 53, was gunned down in broad daylight on January 19, 2007, outside the Istanbul offices of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, where he was the editor. Dink had been an arduous proponent of reconciliation between Armenians and Turks and was repeatedly prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness" over his comments on Armenian identity and the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses the Taliban of having engaged in “a pattern of threats, intimidation, and violence” against media workers in Afghanistan, which the watchdog says heightens concerns about preserving freedom of expression and the media in any peace settlement between the militant group and the Afghan government. “A wave of threats and killings has sent a chilling message to the Afghan media at a precarious moment as Afghans on all sides get set to negotiate free speech protections in a future Afghanistan,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for HRW, said in a statement on April 1. (Gandhara)
While Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev vowed to support the work of bloggers and journalists, a court in Surkhandarya province continued its trial of a local blogger Otabek Sattoriy, who stands accused of fraud and slander. Both CPJ and RSF have called the accusations “fabricated” and demanded Sattoriy’s immediate release. Sattoriy told the court that he has not been allowed to see his family for the past two months. Additionally, Uzbekistan has introduced criminal responsibility for posting online insults against the President of Uzbekistan, which will be punishable by up to 3 years of correctional labor or between 2 and 5 years in prison. (Uzbek Service)