RFE/RL President Jamie Fly began a visit to RFE/RL bureaus in Central Asia on August 27. Following a meeting in Dushanbe with Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Fly said he “remains concerned about the ability of independent media, including journalists with RFE/RL’s Tajik Service and Current Time, to operate freely in the country.”
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
The Russian Duma has announced a commission to investigate “foreign meddling” in the internal affairs of Russia, following recent mass protests in Moscow over forthcoming city council elections. The Duma has said the commission will summon foreign journalists for questioning, including those from "media affiliated with the State Department and USA funds." RFE/RL videos of the protests have garnered millions of views on social media.
Andriy Bohdan, the head of Ukraine's presidential office, is suing Schemes, an investigative journalism program of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, for libel. The lawsuit names Schemes partner Ukrainian state-run public TV broadcaster UA:PBC, and three Schemes team members as co-defendants.
The Washington Post’s editorial board called for support of Azeri journalist and former RFE/RL Baku bureau chief, Khadija Ismayilova, against continued persecution following her reporting on corruption in Azerbaijan.
Seymur Hazi, who was released from custody after serving a five-year term for hooliganism, a charge he has rejected as politically motivated, says prison did not make him change his views.
Georgia’s Rustavi-2 television station has fired several prominent journalists and producers. Critics say new owner Kibar Khalvashi is tied closely to the current government, and that his recent actions are an attempt by the administration to stifle political dissent in the media ahead of parliamentary polls next year.
Access inside Tajikistan to the independent Asia-Plus news agency’s website has been blocked since August 19, with users reporting that even VPNs or filters are ineffective in accessing the site. Tajikistan's Communication Service has denied any role, claiming the site was shut down by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor.
Iranian journalist Amir Tohid Fazel, who accompanied Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this month on an official trip to Europe, has fled the entourage and sought political asylum in Sweden. But critics are questioning Fazel’s credibility, accusing him of working with Iranian intelligence agents, and suggesting that his asylum request may be an attempt to infiltrate Iran's diaspora community in the West.
The Islamic Republic is now the world’s largest jailer of women journalists, with a total of ten journalists currently detained, the media watchdog reports. The list includes economics reporter Marzieh Amiri, who was recently sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison and 148 lashes. An Iranian court has sentenced writer and satirist Kioomars Marzban to more than 23 years in prison after convicting him of cooperating with the U.S., among other charges.
RFE/RL IMPACT STORIES
IRAN: Amid anecdotal accounts that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is grooming his son, Mojtaba, to become the next Supreme Leader, an investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda revealed for the first time that close friends and allies of Mojtaba now control the security apparatus in Iran and hold key posts across the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Other recent Radio Farda reporting has focused on the treatment of activists who are handed lengthy prison sentences on the basis of forced, and false, public confessions. Former prisoner Maziar Ebrahimi recounted how he was one of a dozen people who were tortured and made to falsely confess on television that they had assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists in collaboration with Israeli secret agents.
PAKISTAN: In Pakistan, Radio Mashaal was one of the first media outlets to report the death of the brother of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada during an August 16 bomb attack at a mosque outside of Quetta. Major Pakistani newspapers, including Dawn and Tribune, initially refrained from openly reporting the story.
BELARUS: RFE/RL’s exclusive report on Belarus’s decision to buy U.S. oil for its refineries for the first time in a bid to diversify supplies away from Russia was widely cited by media outlets in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, and by Foreign Policy. In the latest addition to its extensive digital portfolio, the Belarus Service has now launched on TikTok, announcing its presence on the platform with a lighthearted, folkloric video of geese getting “married” in downtown Minsk that received 2.8 million views, 236,000 likes, 17,000 shares, and 2,900 comments.
GEORGIA: Reporting from the border region between Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia, RFE/RL’s Georgian Service has documented continuing efforts at “borderization” by Russia-backed separatists and military personnel. A video that earned more than 400,000 views on Facebook shows how several households have been trapped by newly installed iron bars and fences on the other side of the new frontier.