Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says the Taliban is imposing "very severe constraints" on the media -- even if they are not yet official -- in an effort to gain control over information despite the hard-line Islamist group's pledge to respect press freedom. The Taliban is "increasing threats, pressures, and sometimes violence" against journalists, while the list of obligations for them "grows longer every day," the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog said in a statement on August 24. At least 10 journalists have been threatened or assaulted while carrying out their work in the streets of Kabul and Jalalabad in the space of a week, RSF said, adding that about 100 private local media across the country ceased their activity as soon as the Taliban arrived. ALSO: US lawmakers call on US gov’t to ensure evacuation of USAGM journalists, families
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
As Afghanistan scrambles to come to terms with the Taliban's de facto return to power, RFE/RL’s Current Time is publishing a series of audio diaries by Kabul-based freelance journalist Liza Karimi. The diaries provide an on-the-ground perspective on how the country is changing since the Taliban’s August 15 takeover of Kabul. They share what ordinary Afghans are discussing and Karimi’s own reactions to the historical events taking place. (English translations of the diaries are available initially only in text; English audio is available for Day 4 and Day 8. Links to the original Russian audio for each day are also provided.)
A Ukrainian military plane carrying 83 people, including journalists, activists, and Afghan women and children, arrived in Kyiv, as part of the massive evacuation of foreigners and endangered Afghans from Kabul. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a post to Twitter on August 22 that the group included journalists from RFE/RL, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. "They're safe in Kyiv. We don't abandon our people and help others. Working on further evacuations," Kuleba wrote.
A court in Moscow has fined Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for failing to localize the storage of personal data of its users amid a government campaign to gain more control over the Internet in Russia. Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said on August 26 that a magistrate court in Moscow fined WhatsApp 4 million rubles ($54,150), Facebook 15 million rubles ($203,000) and Twitter 17 million rubles ($230,000) for failing to abide by a law that requires the local storage of user data. President Vladimir Putin has accused social media platforms and other tech giants of flouting the country's Internet laws, including an effort to force foreign firms to open offices in Russia.
On August 23, Russia's Justice Ministry clarified the criteria ostensibly used by the authorities to determine whether an outlet or individual is deserving of the ‘foreign agent’ label, which does not directly lead to criminal charges but rather to vastly increased bureaucratic requirements and often an exodus of advertising partners. The criteria include, it turns out, pretty much any form of contact with foreign entities.
Russian police have detained several journalists who were protesting in Moscow on August 21 against a decision by authorities to label independent television channel Dozhd (TVRain) as a “foreign agent.” To circumvent Russian laws against unauthorized protest gatherings, the journalists held individual pickets outside the main headquarters of the country's top domestic security agency, the FSB, on Moscow's Lubyanka Square. They were detained after holding up protest signs with messages such as “Journalism is not a crime” and “You are afraid of the truth." Earlier, on August 20, Russia's Justice Ministry declared Dozhd a "foreign agent," part of what Kremlin opponents say is a crackdown on critical media before parliamentary elections next month. Investigative journalists working for another outlet, Important Stories (iStories), were also added to the list of "foreign agents."
The RFE/RL Russian Service project North.Realities reports that Russia’s journalists union has filed its intent to stage a public rally with participation of up to 400 people in Moscow on September 4 against the “foreign agent” law and in support of their demand that journalists be excluded. A wave of repression against journalists rose in December 2020, when the first five individuals were registered as individual “foreing agents” -- human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, journalists RFE/RL’s Sever.Realii journalists Lyudmila Savitskaya and Sergey Markelov, editor-in-chief of the Pskov province Denis Kamalyagin and a St. Petersburg artist and activist Daria Apakhonchich. (Russian Service/Sever.Realii)
Police visited RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Service project Idel.Realities Astrakhan reporter Fyodor Alekseev and accused him of “carrying out non-profit-making activities without a special permit (license).” In the spring of 2021, similar charges were drawn up against Kristina Safonova, a correspondent for Meduza who covered an April 21 protest in Moscow. Alekseev writes about the rights of national minorities, regionalism and federalism, and publishes posts on his blog and Twitter feed on the fight against xenophobia and discrimination on national, linguistic and religious grounds in Russia. (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)
Armenian media organizations have condemned authorities for banning journalists from a room reserved for the press in the National Assembly during brawls that took place among deputies this week. Current regulations say media representatives can only follow sessions from the room, which overlooks the chamber and is enclosed by glass windows. On August 24 and 25, security guards entered the room and forced journalists to stop recording and leave when violent brawls broke out during Assembly sessions both days between pro-government and opposition lawmakers.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has signed into law the controversial “false information” bill that many domestic and international rights groups have harshly criticized, saying the legislation could be used to suppress press freedoms in the Central Asian nation. Japarov's press service said that the president signed the bill on August 24. The bill was approved by lawmakers in late July. Civil rights organizations and media groups in the former Soviet republic have said the legislation contradicts Kyrgyzstan’s constitution and the country's international commitments and violates human rights and freedom of speech.
An influential opposition news website has been banned in Ukraine in connection with sanctions against its editor, Ihor Hushva, who is accused by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council of publishing "pro-Russia propaganda." The ban against the strana.ua website was issued as a decree signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was made public on August 21. Hushva has been in exile since 2018 when Ukraine's National Security Council first imposed sanctions on him and his companies.
A court in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, has sentenced well-known pro-Russian blogger Ermek Taichibekov to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of inciting ethnic discord. Taichibekov's lawyer, Ghalym Nurpeisov, and his brother Marlen Taichibekov said the Auezov district court handed down the decision on August 19. Taichibekov was arrested in September and charged with using the media to incite ethnic hatred.
Thirty years ago, on August 19, members of the State Committee for the State of Emergency gave a press conference. Back then, a 24-year old journalist for the “Moscow News,” Tatyana Malkina asked one of the most memorable questions in the history of Russian journalism: "Do you understand that you staged a coup d'etat tonight?" After the putsch, Malkina worked as a journalist and editor at some of the most influential Russian publications of that time. Speaking to Current Time TV about Russian journalism past and present, Malkina said that, 30