RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has been in detention in Russian-occupied Crimea since March, made detailed allegations in court on September 6 about being tortured while in custody. He has been charged with the possession and transport of explosives, which he denies. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called Yesypenko's detention a Kremlin-backed move to target independent media outlets.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Two journalists for Kabul-based newspaper Etilaat-e Roz were detained by Taliban militants while covering a women's rights protest on September 7. They were released hours later covered in bruises and barely able to walk. RFE/RL's Radio Azadi spoke to the newspaper's founder about the beatings and the dangers faced by journalists trying to cover the new Taliban regime.
Russian police have detained three journalists as they protested outside the Justice Ministry against the government's widening crackdown on media outlets. The September 8 detention of the three, from the online news site Vazhniye Istorii (iStories), comes amid mounting fears about the ongoing Kremlin campaign to squeeze independent journalism in Russia ahead of this month's elections. Vazhniye Istorii is among dozens of media outlets and individual journalists (including RFE/RL projects and freelancers) that have been labeled "foreign agents" under a decade-old law. Also, More Than 40 Russian Media Outlets Launch “There Are No Foreign Agents, There Are Journalists” Campaign.
Russia has branded four more media outlets as "foreign agents," adding to the growing list of news organizations and individual journalists caught up in what critics say is an accelerated Kremlin campaign against independent media ahead of nationwide legislative elections later this month. The Justice Ministry announced on September 3 that it had added four legal entities to its controversial registry of "foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent": Altair 2021 LLC, Vega 2021 LLC, Editor-in-Chief 2021 LLC, and Romashki Monolit LLC. Also, Dozens Gather In Moscow To Condemn Government Pressure On Independent Media.
Well-known Russian journalist Roman Badanin, who stayed in the United States where he and his family were vacationing when his investigative group Proyekt (The Project) was shut down in Moscow in July, has started a new media outlet aimed at exposing abuses by Russian authorities. Badanin's U.S.-registered The Project, which published a series of well-researched, unflattering, and sometimes embarrassing investigations into Russia's ruling elite, was closed after the Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow declared it an "undesirable organization" in mid-July.
Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has blocked the last remaining portal open to the Smart Voting website developed by jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team to support candidates in the upcoming elections to defeat Kremlin-linked figures and candidates for the ruling United Russia party. Navalny's close associate, Leonid Volkov, wrote on Telegram late on September 6 that the site votesmart.appspot.com, the last access to the Smart Voting app, was cut off after Russian authorities had blocked all other entry points. According to Volkov, to block the site, Roskomnadzor is using a TSPU (technical tools to counter threats) system which it had forced all Internet and communications operators to install as part of the country's controversial "sovereign" Internet law. The tools block access to servers from which the app is downloaded. Also read -- Hacking Servers. Online Blocking. Police Raids. Information Attacks. What Won't The Kremlin Do To Stop 'Smart Voting'?
Russian media and telecom regulator Roskomnadzor ordered foreign companies that Russian authorities find are “violating Russian legislation” to label online messages with this text: "The foreign person that owns this information resource is a violator of Russian Federation legislation." The requirements will apply to foreign legal entities, foreign organizations without legal entity status, foreign citizens and stateless people who "operate on the Internet on the territory of the Russian Federation." (in Russian, Current Time TV)
The websites of several prominent Western news outlets have been targeted by a pro-Russian influence operation that uses the websites' comment sections to distort public opinion, research conducted in Britain shows. The study by Cardiff University's Crime and Security Research Institute found pro-Russian comments often receive an unusually high number of favorable responses. These comments in turn are fed back to Russian-language media outlets and used as the basis for stories to suggest Western public approval of Kremlin policies or discontent with Western governments or institutions.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Tajik authorities to release under amnesty Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda, a journalist and activist of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party who is serving a 16-year prison sentence. Sayfullozoda, who has been in prison since 2015, survived a severe case of COVID-19 and endured heart surgery in June; according to RSF Eastern Europe and Cetnral Asia Desk head Jeanne Cavelier, Sayfullozoda “is in danger of dying in prison...His release could save his life.” Tajik President Emomali Rahmon announced the amnesty in honor of the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence, which the republic celebrates today on September 9. (Tajik Service)
The editor-in-chief of the Rostov-on-Don, Russia based independent publication “Golos,” Igor Horoshilov, learned from a police interrogator that his telephone conversations, and those of other journalists, were being secretly monitored by security officials interested in investigative journalist Sergei Reznik, who emigrated from Russia in 2019 and runs several popular Telegram channels on life in the region. Horoshilov was told about the surveillance and had to sign a non-disclosure form. (Kavaz.Realii)
In a media environment dominated by outlets associated with the government, RFE/RL’s renewed Hungarian Service, Szabad Európa, has carved out an important role for itself as a trusted, digital-only source of timely, accurate, and non-partisan information. In its first year, Szabad Európa has become a market leader with its original investigations and its reporting on key topics including the COVID-19 crisis and expanding Chinese influence in the country.