The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has accepted on a priority basis the legal case that the Moscow bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its general director, Andrey Shary brought to it on May 19, and begun the process of considering the case. The case has also been formally communicated to the government of Russia. The ECHR’s decision to grant “priority” status – which it reserves for the most important, serious, and urgent cases – within a month of its filing means that the case will likely proceed more quickly than ordinary cases. The Russian government has until October 5 to submit its response in the case to the court.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has warned of the "gradual disappearance" of independent media in Russia, and urged President Vladimir Putin to repeal a "draconian 'foreign agents' law" that has been used to target RFE/RL and other news outlets. In a statement issued on June 16, the Paris-based media watchdog lists the demise of the Russia-based VTimes and risks to other media outlets such as the Latvian-based Meduza. "Only a handful of independent media outlets are managing to survive the growing pressure from the authorities," it says, citing "intimidation attempts" against TV Dozhd, Fortanga and Chernovik in the North Caucasus, as well as the Kaliningrad-based Novye Kolesa.
During their summit in Geneva on June 16, U.S. President Joe Biden raised the issue of Kremlin pressure against RFE/RL's Russian-language services in Russia with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States has accused Russia of attempting to drive RFE/RL out of the country by listing it as a "foreign agent" media organization and imposing fines against it for failing to comply with requirements that all its materials be prominently labeled. "I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech," Biden said at his press conference in Geneva when listing some of the issues the two leaders discussed.
The RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Service project Idel.Realities reports that Russia’s Justice Ministry says project grants from the Russian Union of Journalists can be seen as “foreign financing,” as the Union had received foreign funds in 2019. Most recently, Russian Justice Ministry refused to allow the Samara-based publication “Park Gagarina” to be removed from its list of organizations performing the functions of a “foreign agent,” citing a grant from the Russian Union of Journalists as the reason for its refusal. (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)
A court in Belarus has set June 24 as the start date for the trial of Belarusian video blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a leading opposition figure who was arrested after declaring his readiness to challenge Alyaksandr Lukashenka in last year's disputed presidential election. Tsikhanouski is married to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who took over the election campaign after her husband's detention and ran against Lukashenka, but has since been forced to flee Belarus. Trials for several opposition figures also charged in Tsikhanouski's high-profile case are also due to begin on June 24 inside a detention center in the southeastern city of Homel, on charges widely considered to have been trumped-up. They include popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant Ihar Losik, as well as Mikalay Statkevich, Uladzimer Tsyhanovich, Artsyom Sakau, and Dzmitry Papou. Ihar Losik’s wife, Darya Losik, told RFE/RL’s Belarus Service that Losik will have a closed trial because “authorities can not admit they screwed up.”
Katsyaryna Barysevich of Belarus is among four "courageous" journalists from around the world to receive the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) 2021 International Press Freedom Awards. The New York-based media-freedom watchdog said on June 15 it will honor the "commitment and sacrifice" of Barysevich and journalists from Guatemala, Mozambique, and Burma, also known as Myanmar, for having reported "during a historically turbulent time, covering protests and political upheaval in their countries." "In the midst of a battle over the control of information, these journalists are on the side of the people, covering events, informing communities, and ensuring accountability," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement.
A contributor to RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities project in Russia's Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk says he has filed a lawsuit against local police, accusing them of inaction after he was attacked by three unknown men last week. Andrei Afanasyev told RFE/RL that he filed the lawsuit with the local prosecutor’s office on June 14. It charges that police have been reluctant to investigate the attack that took place against him on June 9. "It looks like police are waiting for the noise around the situation to calm down in order to sweep the case under the carpet," Afanasyev said. "Also, the obstruction of my journalistic activities must be investigated by the Investigative Committee, not just by police."
In the run-up to Uzbekistan’s upcoming presidential election, the county’s largest companies have received letters from the state-controlled association of independent media asking them to sponsor promotional materials promoting incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s policies. RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service obtained a copy of the document. Also read -- Uzbek bloggers tell RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service how authorities coopt bloggers and social media influencers. (Uzbek Service)
Consideration of an appeal by Otabek Sattoriy, a blogger who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison after being convicted on what international media-freedom watchdogs called "trumped-up" extortion and slander charges, will move to a court outside of Sattoriy’s home province, following a complaint by Sattoriy’ lawyer to President Mirziyoev. (Uzbek Service)
SOTA journalist Nika Samusik has been named a suspect in a criminal hooliganism case, after a performance by performance artist Pavel Krysevich, who was detained on June 11 on Moscow's Red Square and charged with hooliganism after he fired two blanks into the air while shouting: "There will be shots before the Kremlin's curtain." He then held the gun to his head and fired another blank. Despite the fact that Samusik had been sent with a press card and written assignment to film the action as a journalist, the police detained her. The journalist faces up to seven years in prison if convicted on the hooliganism charge. (Russian Service)
Belarusian television anchor and poet Valyaryna Kustava has fled the country after at least two criminal cases were launched against her amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent following last year’s contested election that extended strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s rule. Kustava wrote on Facebook late on June 15 that she and her two-year-old daughter are now "in safety." Kustava said earlier that police searched her home and sealed it, making it impossible for her and her daughter to enter the apartment.
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