RFE/RL President Jamie Fly termed the trial of RFE/RL Belarus Service social media consultant Ihar Losik, which started today, a “mockery of justice,” and repeated his calls for Belarusian authorities to release Losik “immediately and without condition.” The trial of Losik, Syarhey Tsikhanouski, and four other defendants, which is being held behind closed doors inside a detention center in the Belarusian city of Homel, began one day before Losik marks a full year since authorities searched his apartment in Baranavichy and arrested him. ALSO - Trial Of Belarusian Vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski Starts In Homel
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
The Simferopol District Court in Russia-annexed Crimea will begin hearing the case of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service Crimea.Realities project contributor Vladyslav Yesypenko on July 6. Yesypenko is currently being held by the FSB in pre-trial detention. International organizations including Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and others, as well as officials from EU and the U.S. have called for Yesypenko’s release. Yesypenko was detained on March 10 after covering an event marking the 207th anniversary of the death of Ukrainian poet and thinker Taras Shevchenko in the Crimean city of Simferopol. (Ukrainian Service/Krym.Realii)
The Supreme Court of Russia's Chuvashia region has reversed the acquittal of RFE/RL correspondent Darya Komarova, in a case regarding her coverage of a protest rally. Judge Andrei Golubev on June 22 ruled that the decision of the Lenin district court to acquit Komarova must be nullified and the case sent for retrial. It is not clear why the acquittal was reversed. Komarova said after the hearing that the judge had questions regarding the absence of the date and registration number on her assignment papers to cover the rally.
Yekaterina Lushnikova, a correspondent for the Idel.Realities reporting project of RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service was threatened by a former Russian Federal Penitentiary Service official over her allegedly “libelous” reporting about VyatLag, one of the biggest concentrations of forced labor camps in the Soviet-era Gulag system. Some of the camps continue to operate to this day in the area north of the city of Kirov, and hold modern-day convicts and political prisoners such as ex-governor of Kirov oblast Nikita Belykha and Ukrainian prisoner Valentin Vygivsky. (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)
The European Union has imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, including potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum, and petrochemical products, following the forced diversion of a passenger flight to Minsk last month that allowed for the arrest of a dissident journalist and his girlfriend. The new restrictive measures were introduced on June 24 "to respond to the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists, as well as to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021 and the related detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega," the Council of the EU said in a statement on June 24.
Citing the lawyer for jailed former “Kommersant” and “Vedomosti” journalist Ivan Safronov, Russian media report that an FSB colonel offered Safronov, who is accused of treason, the chance to call his mother in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation - which Safronov declined. The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May 2020 as an adviser to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, was arrested on July 7, 2020 amid allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
The director of Chechnya’s state television has issued death threats against the “enemies” of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Chingiz Akhmadov, head of the Grozny State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, said in an Instagram video on June 21 that he stands “with Ramzan Kadyrov.” “If someone needs to be killed, someone who deserves death, then we will kill. If it is necessary to say a word, then we will say the word,” he said. Akhmadov said any "enemy of Ramzan Kadyrov is the enemy of the Chechen people," and his personal enemy.
Billions of Uzbek soums of state funds are spent on funding a campaign to promote reform efforts by incumbent Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev ahead of the upcoming October 2021 Presidential elections that he is expected to win. Documents obtained by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service show that Uzbek government agencies and commercial banks were obliged to transfer billions of soums to the account of the National Association of Electronic Mass Media of Uzbekistan, to prepare news articles about “ongoing reforms.” (Uzbek Service)
During his visit to the Andijan region, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev toured a new factory in Izbaskan region, built by the “And gold” sewing and knitwear enterprise. RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service learned later that the factory wasn’t operational, and that women and girls were brought to the enterprise and instructed to play the role of “seamstress” for journalists and the President. In a video prepared by the presidential press service, one can see hundreds of women and girls working in the same uniforms. (Uzbek Service)
A number of MP’s in Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Council are trying to rush through the adoption of a law on information manipulation, claiming that the need to battle fake news justifies the expedited procedures. Some observers fear, however, that this is an attempt by authorities to "curb" freedom of speech in the country. MP Omurbek Bakirov is convinced that the Constitution must be amended to change an article which says that a citizen cannot be held criminally liable for expressing his opinion. At the same time, media experts, journalists, lawyers and a number of government officials believe that the draft law contradicts the Constitution and restricts freedom of speech, as well as the expression of personal opinions. (Kyrgyz Service)
A RusNews correspondent based in the Siberian city of Barnaul, Maria Ponomarenko, was fined $1,038 for an Instagram post on her account titled "Against Eternal Putin." She was detained last week after a rally against the general plan of the city and taken to the local police department. Initially the police tried to charge Ponomarenko with a criminal case for a repeat violation of public assembly rules, but later, the journalist was charged under an administrative article on a repeat violation of the rules for holding public events, citing as evidence two temporary publications (stories) on her Instagram: one said “April 21 in all squares of the country,” the second - “No to eternal Putin.” (Russian Service)
Current Time TV journalists share (in Russian, w/ English subtitles) how they handle the emotional aspect of reporting difficult news.