RFE/RL President Jamie Fly told a U.S. Senate committee on June 9 that Belarusian authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka has discussed copying Russia’s “foreign agents” law to further restrict media freedom in Belarus. He outlined how the Russian law has affected RFE/RL’s operations in Moscow, saying the tactic of imposing such laws to restrict the free flow of information is spreading as authoritarian leaders are “learning from each other” and adapting such approaches in different forms and at different speeds.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
A contributor to the programs of RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities project in Russia's Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk says he has been attacked by three unidentified individuals. Andrei Afanasyev told RFE/RL that he was attacked when he was entering his apartment block late at night on June 9. Afanasyev said one of the attackers hit him with a metal bar, knocking him down, before all three assailants severely beat him for about 10 minutes. "While they were beating me, one of the them told me 'write fewer reports about decent people.' They called me 'an American whore.' When they had to flee [after people appeared at the site] one of them said, 'report to Domik,'" Afanasyev said, adding that Domik is the nickname of a local lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Andrei Domashenkin, who also co-founded a Chechnya-linked local martial arts club that was recently the subject of an investigation by Afanasyev.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports, citing the press service of Moscow’s Zuzino district court, that an administrative case was opened against popular Russian YouTube blogger Yury Dud, who is charged with sharing drug propaganda online. Dud is charged with the promotion of drugs using the Internet, and faces a maximum fine on this charge of $20,906. The police investigation of Dud began in April, following a complaint from the director of the Safe Internet League, Ekaterina Mizulina, who claimed that Dud engaged in drug propaganda during an interview with Russian rapper Morgenstern. (Russian Service)
A court in Moscow has upheld the Justice Ministry's move to designate the Latvia-based independent Meduza news outlet as a “foreign agent” -- a move that requires it to label itself as such and subjects the media outlet to increased government scrutiny and regulation. Meduza said that the Zamoskvorechye district court rejected its appeal on June 4, adding that the court's decision will also be appealed. The Justice Ministry added Meduza to the registry of "foreign agents" on April 23, without giving detailed justification for the move.
Uzbekistan's Association of Journalists has condemned an attack on reporters from the Effect.uz website in the eastern city of Andijon. Several journalists from Effect.uz said they were beaten on June 7 by a son of the city-council chairman. The incident occurred as three journalists from the website are on trial on charges of libel and insulting and resisting authorities over their attempt earlier this year to cover the trial of blogger Otabek Sattoriy.
A land mine explosion has killed two Azerbaijani journalists and a local official in an area recaptured from Armenian separatists during last year's war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The explosion on June 4 comes amid heightened border tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan in recent weeks despite a Russian-brokered cease-fire. Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry said a truck struck an anti-tank mine in the Kalbacar district, killing Azerbaijani state-run AzTV journalist Sirac Abisov and state news agency AzerTag employee Maharram Ibrahimov.
An Afghan news anchor was killed in a blast in western Kabul, the latest of a series of attacks on journalists in the country. Mina Khairi, a female anchor for Ariana News, died on the evening of June 3 when an explosion ripped through a minivan she was in. The blast also killed four other people, including Khairi's mother, and seriously wounded the journalist’s sister and six more civilians. The 23-year-old had worked as a presenter for Ariana’s radio and television programs since 2017. (Radio Free Afghanistan/Gandhara)
Pakistan's most prominent TV presenter, who was taken off air by his employer last month after criticizing the military, has offered an apology saying he had no intention to defame anyone. Hamid Mir tweeted on June 9 that he has apologized for his remarks to a committee of three journalist groups who defended him since he was removed in May as the host of a primetime nightly talk show on Geo News TV. "I respect the army as a [national] institution," Mir said in a statement issued by the committee. Also read -- ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’: Popular Pakistani Journalist Defiant Following TV Ban. (Gandhara)
Did he? The answer may not matter to Lukashenka, who has used the claims to step up pressure on Pratasevich, or to the Kremlin, which has supported the crackdown next door and could only benefit from information that might discredit the jailed journalist and advance Moscow's narratives about events in Belarus and Ukraine. At this point, there is no definitive evidence that Pratasevich fought in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people still simmers. Pratasevich denies it. In 2020, he said that he had spent a year in the Donbas early in the war and was wounded there but he stressed that it was in a role as a journalist, not a fighter.
The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urging him to provide information on the arrest and detention of RFE/RL Crimea.Realities contributor Vladyslav Yesypenko. The letter, obtained by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, states that “we express the most serious concern about the arrest, detention, possible torture and criminal charges against Yesypenko, which appear to have been created through his journalistic activities.” Yesypenko was detained on March 10 after covering an event in Russia-annexed Crimea. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said Yesypenko was suspected of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence, and claimed that an object "looking like an explosive device" was found in his automobile during his apprehension. (Ukrainian Service)
RFE/RL Ukrainian Service contributor Stanislav Aseyev, who was himself forced to “confess” on Russian state TV channel while in the custody of Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2019, discussed what kind of pressure tactics could have been used against jailed Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich in order to get him to “confess” on camera. Among the tactics Aseyev pointed to were possible threats against Pratasevich’s girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who was detained with him and also remains in pre-trial detention in Minsk. (Ukrainian Service)
“I was forced to become a video blogger because I faced the lawlessness of officials and criminal negligence. More than 130,000 subscribers asked me to participate in this campaign, because they do not believe and do not see a single candidate they could follow, whom they could trust,” -- Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a popular blogger and husband of opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya who planned to run against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the country’s August 2020 presidential election before he was arrested. Tsikhanouski remains in jail and faces many more years in prison if convicted of the charges against him related to his attempt to participate in the election. Current Time TV takes a closer look at who Syarhey Tsikhanouski is and how his path to politics took shape. (in Russian, Current Time TV)