It has gone far enough: Roskomnadzor is threatening to block RFE/RL websites; hundreds of our appeals have been denied, with little doubt that other appeals will be denied, too. RFE/RL has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, but when will it be considered? The due dates for the first batch of fines have expired, and we have seen RFE/RL Moscow bureau visited by court bailiffs twice, our bank accounts frozen, the state labor-monitoring agency Rostrud inquiring (allegedly concerned by the “publications in the media”) about possible delays in salary payments, and myself as director of the local representative company possibly facing one or two criminal charges. Read this English translation of RFE/RL Russian Service Director Andrey Shary’s original blog post on the svoboda.org website.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has defended her country's controversial labeling of some foreign-funded media as "foreign agents" by saying Moscow was "forced" to adopt the measure in response to actions taken by the United States. The labeling of "foreign agents" has been interpreted by many civil society activists as another tool for the Kremlin to use to intimidate Russia's political opposition, especially with parliamentary elections looming in September and the ruling United Russia party slumping in opinion polls. "We were forced to do it to defend our journalists and our information space," Zakharova said at a breakfast roundtable on the "foreign agent" law in St. Petersburg on June 3.
In her May 13 press briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Zakharova stated that Russian requirements for media “foreign agents” are a response to similar such requirements in the U.S.. Current Time examined Zakharova’s remarks to pinpoint where the differences lie between the two countries’ “foreign agent” laws.
Netherlands-based Russian-language online business media outlet VTimes has announced its closure, after the Russian Justice Ministry added it to the registry of "foreign agents" in May, a move the site says "destroyed" its business. The website's editors said in a statement on June 3 that VTimes will halt its operations as of June 12 because they do not want to work "as a niche opposition political media" outlet that would create threatening situations for its employees. They added that the "foreign agent" designation had scared away its partners, ruined its business, and made it harder to report news.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticized Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of several Russian state-controlled media outlets, for making public comments that amounted to “open support” for an ongoing crackdown on independent media in Belarus. While the diversion of a Ryanair passenger airline to Minsk and subsequent capture of journalist Raman Pratasevich by Belarus’s KGB triggered international outrage, Simonyan expressed her admiration for the Belarusian government and congratulated authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka for the move. “I never thought that I would envy Belarus in any way. But now I somehow envy. [Lukashenka] performed beautifully,” she tweeted.
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has refused to prolong the accreditation of an independent Polish journalist who earlier this year accused one of the ministry's officers of sexual harassment and of pressuring her to write positive articles about the Central Asian nation in exchange for remaining accredited. Ministry spokesman Yusuf Qobuljonov wrote on Telegram on June 2 that the decision not to extend the accreditation for Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, a correspondent for Al-Jazeera, was made due to "violations of legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan." The statement did not specify which laws the journalist violated or how.
Several human rights watchdogs have expressed grave concerns over the growing number of attacks on Pakistani journalists who criticize the government and called on authorities to probe such incidents promptly and impartially. The joint appeal by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists comes amid a spate of blows directed at Pakistan's independent media. Also, Prominent Pakistani Journalist Says Banned From TV After Speech Criticizing Military.
A freelance journalist working for Deutsche Welle (DW) was released on June 1 after spending 20 days in detention in Belarus, the German international broadcaster said. DW quoted Alyaksandr Burakou as saying after his release that police guards in the detention facility where he was being held woke him up "twice a night every night" for checks that involved him getting completely naked. Similar checks took place during the day, Burakou said, adding that he was also moved to a different cell every day. Also, Chief Editor Of Independent Belarusian News Portal Briefly Detained.
The Belarusian rights group Vyasna says detained journalist and opposition activist Raman Pratasevich has been moved to a pretrial detention facility run by the country’s main security agency, the KGB. In a report on its Telegram channel on May 30, Vyasna also said that Pratasevich had received a package from his sister, but that an unspecified book had been taken from it. Vyasna did not reveal the name or location of the facility. Previously, Pratasevich had been held at pretrial detention center No. 1 in the capital, Minsk. Also, Hundreds Rally In Warsaw In Support Of Belarusian Journalist Pratasevich and European Alliance To Suspend Belarus's State Broadcaster Over “Exceptional Concerns.”
A Russian court has sentenced five former police officers to several years in prison for the 2019 arrest of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov on trumped-up drug charges. The Moscow City Court on May 28 handed down prison terms ranging between five years and 12 years after finding the men guilty of the charges following a closed-door trial. They were also ordered to pay Golunov 1 million rubles ($13,600) each in compensation. The 38-year-old Golunov, who works for the Latvia-based information outlet Meduza, was arrested in June 2019 in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs. WATCH: Current Time TV on how Golunov’s case unfolded.
Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov accused journalists of trying to portray him as an antagonist of President Vladimir Putin, after the head of Chechnya suggested that those who refuse vaccination and come down with COVID be treated at a hospital only as a last resort. "At another time I would not pay attention to the pathetic attempts of buffoons to portray me in a negative light, but there is an attempt to present me as an antagonist to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and, as a result, encroach on the integrity of the Russian Federation," wrote Kadyrov on his Telegram channel. Vaccination rates in Chechnya are very low and Kadyrov had proposed to set up commissions in each district for explanatory work. In late May, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke against the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination. (Russian Service)
The head of the Russian human rights group "Agora" Pavel Chikov reports that Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened criminal libel case against Vladimir Metyolkin, the editor of the student magazine DOXA, for saying back in April that Investigative Committee investigator Yekaterina Zhizhmanova had called him a "sexual hero," constantly tried to touch him, communicated with him at an uncomfortable for him distance, and called his Instagram photo and himself "sexy." The conversation took place in front of a lawyer. Metyolkin is one of the four editors of DOXA who were accused of "engaging minors in actions that might be dangerous" over a video related to unsanctioned rallies protesting opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's incarceration back in April. (Russian Service)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) believes that the European Union must seek justice for the death of prominent human rights activist and journalist Azimjan Askarov in Kyrgyz custody in July 2021. In a statement published on CPJ’s website, the organization called on EU officials to use upcoming negotiations with the Kyrgyz government to seek justice and conduct an independent investigation. CPJ spokesman Tom Gibson also said that “the EU should also press Kyrgyz officials to publicly apologize for Askarov's unjust death in custody, posthumously remove his conviction and pay compensation to his family.” Askarov was convicted of creating a mass disturbance and involvement in the murder of a police officer during deadly ethnic clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in 2010. (Kyrgyz Service)
Elyor Tojiboyev, a journalist with the Effect.uz website addressed independent journalists and bloggers in Uzbekistan warning them that the “freedom of speech is dead in Uzbekistan,” and alerting them about the threats to their professional activities. After the lengthy sentence given to a blogger Otabek Sattoriy, who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison last month, three Effect.uz journalists, including Tojiboyev, are also facing trials for entering the courthouse without sanction to cover a hearing on allegations of large-scale fraud. (Uzbek Service)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Romanian authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting on corruption and not to pursue criminal cases against them. According to the daily newspaper Libertatea and the weekly magazine Newsweek Romania, four of their employees have been questioned by prosecutors at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism since May 20 over the outlets’ coverage of alleged corruption in public works contracting.