INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has called on Russia to stop "targeting" journalists after one of its contributors lost an appeal against her inclusion on Russia’s controversial registry of “foreign agent” media. The City Court in the western Russian city of Pskov on May 5 said the inclusion of RFE/RL contributor Lyudmila Savitskaya on the Justice Ministry’s list was lawful. “Lyudmila is not a 'foreign agent' -- she, and RFE/RL journalists Denis Kamalyagin and Sergei Markelov, are Russian nationals providing objective news and information to their fellow citizens,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement. Read Savitskaya’s final statement to the court.
On May 7, the Pskov City Court ruled that Denis Kamalyagin, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya and an RFE/RL contributor, had been legally designated as an individual media “foreign agent.” Kamalyagin and his lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Russian Justice Ministry in March 2021, demanding that his name be removed from the Ministry’s register of media “foreign agents.” Kamalyagin’s lawyer, Tatyana Martynova said she was not surprised by the court's decision: “It is obvious that the Ministry of Justice made a decision on the basis of letters from the authorities, but there is no confirmation of the factual circumstances in them...We will appeal.”
The face and voice of 40-year-old Leonid Volkov, a close colleague of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, have apparently been cloned for a deepfake operation that some European and British politicians suspect was masterminded by Moscow. From Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the Netherlands and United Kingdom, a pseudo-Volkov has appeared recently in video conversations with politicians interested in learning more about Russia’s human-rights situation and reported repressions of Navalny’s supporters. Volkov speculated that two Russian digital pranksters, Vladimir Kuznetsov (Vovan) and Aleksei Stolyarov (Lexus), who are known for targeting politicians critical of the Kremlin, are behind the deception, but Stolyarov told The Guardian that he had not used any filter to portray Volkov on a Zoom call.
Current Time TV’s Footage vs. Footage program, which focuses on dissecting fake news and sensationalized stories, examined Russian state media’s reaction to the May 11 school shooting in Kazan. Among the topics discussedin this regard were: tightening control over the internet and computer games, restricting online anonymity, limiting arms sales, bringing back the death penalty. Many TV stations discussed the possibility of introducing armed guards at schools, possibly the Russian National Guard. One thing Russian state media outlets agreed on: “no one doubts that after this tragedy, of course, very tough measures will be taken.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)
A court in the Russian city of Kemerovo ordered RFE/RL Russian Service project Siberia.Realities contributor Andrei Novashov, as well as other defendants in a lawsuit filed by three penal colonies located in the Kuzbass region, to retract their reporting about torture in the three facilities. The court’s decision requires Novoashov to retract reporting in his article, where he cited comments by former prisoners who described torture and extortion in the penal colonies, as well as reimburse expenses incurred by te court for linguistic expertise, notary procedures, and examination of evidence amounting to almost $1,000. The other defendants in the case are three former prisoners of the penal colonies, and Dmitry Kamynin and Vladimir Taranenko of the human rights project "Siberia Pravovaya." Novashov’s lawyer says they will appeal the decision. (Russian Service/Siberia.Realii)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on authorities in the Russian republic of Tatarstan not to contest the appeals of two correspondents for an independent news website, who have been found guilty of interfering with traffic and disobeying police. A local court on May 9 convicted Aleksei Solovyov and Damir Manzhukov; Solovyev was sentenced to five days of administrative arrest, while Manzhukov was fined 2,000 rubles ($27) and released. The journalists denied the charges, Solovyov told CPJ, adding that he filed an appeal in his case and that Manzhukov planned to do so as well.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Iran to stop its imprisonment and harassment of Kurdish journalists amid what human rights groups have denounced as a crackdown on members of the minority group. In a statement on May 12, the New York-based media-freedom watchdog cited news reports and sources familiar with the cases as saying that Iranian authorities had arrested at least eight Kurdish journalists since May 2020. Three of them -- Navid Seyed-Mohammadi, Jafar Osafi, and Nasrullah Lashani -- remain in detention.
International media-freedom watchdogs are urging an Uzbek court to overturn the conviction of a blogger who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison on "trumped-up" extortion and slander charges. A court in the southern Surxondaryo region handed down the sentence against Otabek Sattoriy on May 10 in a case denounced by rights defenders as retaliation by the authorities for his critical reporting. The 40-year-old Sattoriy has insisted that the case against him was "based on lies."
Tajikistan’s Committee on Radio and Television has introduced new regulations that establish total control over independent media. Restrictions on media operations are clearly outlined in a new contract to extend the broadcasting license, which states that the editorial offices are now required to coordinate the texts of their reports and materials in foreign languages, including Russian with the leadership of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Committee, and are obliged to "work within the framework of state policy in the sphere of information ". In case of refusal to sign this document, the TV and radio channels will simply lose their permission to operate. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Iran’s parliament to reject a bill that it says would "help further erode Iran's increasingly vulnerable press freedom" ahead of next month's presidential election. In a statement on May 10, the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog says the proposed law would ban U.S. and British journalists from entering Iran and would ban Iranian media from reporting anything published by a U.S. or British media outlet. Violations of the proposed law would be punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 360 million rials ($16,340).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Iranian authorities to release from prison three journalists who it said are being denied appropriate medical care after “almost certainly” contracting COVID-19 while in detention. Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, and Kayvan Samimi Behbahani “must be freed at once,” the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on May 7. Abtin and Mahabadi are members of the Association of Iranian Writers, which has come under pressure by authorities who have summoned, threatened, and jailed its members.