More than 150 media and nongovernmental organizations in Russia have launched a petition urging authorities to cancel the controversial “foreign agent” law, which is widely seen as a tool used by the Kremlin to stifle civil society and independent media. The Russian law, first passed in 2012 and amended several times since, requires designated media organizations (including 9 RFE/RL reporting projects) to label all of their content with an intrusive disclaimer. The petition says that, since January, the Justice Ministry has added six media outlets, 20 journalists, and seven NGOs to the registry of "foreign agents." Between 2013 and 2020, a total of 221 groups and individuals were put on the list.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
A court in Simferopol, in Russia-occupied Crimea has heard from witnesses in the case of jailed RFE/RL Ukrainian Service project Crime.Realii contributor Vladyslav Yesupenko. The court heard from two witnesses who saw Yesypenko’s detention and an FSB officer. According to Yesypenko’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze, these witnesses told the court that “after the car was stopped, the traffic police officers took Esypenko out of the car, they walked away from the car, then the FSB officers returned and asked Esipenko to open the doors.”Yesypenko’s next court hearing will take place on September 21. Yesypenko is standing trial on charges of 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. (Ukrainian Service/Cirmea.Realii)
On a visit this week to Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly met with Kyrgyz Republic President Sadyr Japarov and Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev, representatives of independent news outlets, media freedom advocates, and journalism students, and spent time with RFE/RL`s local journalists to discuss the important role that RFE/RL`s journalism plays in supporting Kyrgyz democracy.
In the latest example of the Russian authorities' widening censorship campaign ahead of State Duma elections, the country's Internet regulator has ordered the shutdown of an independent website aimed at helping voters learn about candidates. The site, Duma.vote, is backed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the exiled oil tycoon who in recent years has stepped up his criticism of the Kremlin by funding and supporting opposition activists and independent media outlets. Also, a court in Moscow has ordered Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram to pay more fines for failing to delete content banned by Russian law, amid a government campaign to gain more control over the Internet.
Moscow police have detained four activists and a reporter over a brief protest in support of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny held on Red Square. Sergei Lukashov, Svetlana Lukashova, Sergei Rednikov, and Ilya Yermakov were detained on September 15, seconds after they unfolded a large banner saying "Free Navalny! Putin, go to jail," and chanting "Free Aleksei Navalny!" Yevgeny Yevsyukov, who recorded the protest on video, was also detained. The OVD-Info human rights group said police confiscated Yevsyukov's journalist ID and beat Yermakov. An ambulance was called to treat Yermakov, it said. The protest was held as Russia prepares for elections on September 17-19. Also: Russian journalist Igor Khoroshilov arrested for posting about Navalny's “smart voting.”
The investigative journalism group Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) says it has halted its operations in Russia to shield its journalists from an ongoing government crackdown on independent media in the country. OCCRP said on September 15 that most of the Russian partners cooperating with it had been labeled as "foreign agents" or "undesirable" organizations, putting them at risk, given current conditions. It added that it had offered to move employees in Russia to other countries, while those who stayed received severance payments and assistance in finding new jobs.
Thousands of journalists converged on Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, to protest against draft legislation that they say would undermine press freedom in the country. They held an overnight sit-in outside parliament into September 13. The International Press Institute said the law would “gravely weaken press freedom in Pakistan," while the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed concerns over what it called a “draconian” regulatory framework. (Radio Mashaal via Ganghara)
Following a complaint from the local administration of the Ministry of Emergency Situations about the distribution of false information, the Pskov region Ministry of Internal Affairs summoned the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Pskov Province," Denis Kamalyagin, who was designated as a “foreign agent” earlier this year. An employee of the Emergency Situations Ministry complained about an article written by Kamalyagin about an alleged chemical spill during a military exercise, which was based on a press release sent by the prosecutor's office to the local press that resulted in four casualties. Later, the prosecutor's office said that this news was fake, and reported that the department’s email had been hacked; "Pskov province" then published a correction. The Emergency Situations Ministry, however, is maintaining its demand for criminal charges to be filed against Kamalyagin. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Police in Kazakhstan’s southern Zhambyl region have summoned two journalists as part of a probe into what they called the "distribution of false information" over deadly ammunition explosions last month that led to the resignation of Defense Minister Nurlan Ermekbaev. Regional police took the two journalists -- Islambek Dastan of Turaninfo.kz and Daniyar Alimkul -- in for questioning on September 16. Dastan was summoned as witness, while Alimkul's status is a witness with the right to defend himself. Dastan told RFE/RL after the questioning that he answered the investigators' questions regarding his live broadcast on Facebook while covering the explosions and fire at the ammunition warehouse on August 26, which killed at least 17 people; one person is still missing.
The Ukrainian judge who oversaw the investigation into the 2016 murder in Kyiv of journalist Pavel Sheremet has been found dead outside the Ukrainian capital, Ukrainian media report. The Kyiv regional prosecutor's office announced on September 12 that it was investigating the death of a judge from the Pechersk district court in Kyiv as a case of "premeditated murder" without naming the victim. However, the website of the Pechersk court has published a statement saying all hearings chaired by Judge Vitaliy Pisanets had been indefinitely postponed and "will be redistributed for consideration by other judges."
Iranian journalist Masoud Kazemi was exultant when he was released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison in April 2020. "The nightmare is officially over," tweeted Kazemi, the former editor of the monthly magazine Sedaye Parsi, posting a photo of the prison where he had been held for 300 days. Following months of pressure and harassment to work with the IRGC, Kazemi left Iran for Turkey, intending to seek asylum in a third country along with his wife. Kazemi says he still worries he could be targeted by Iranian intelligence services, who are known to surveil Iranian activists in Turkey. He told RFE/RL that, four days after purchasing a Turkish SIM card for his mobile phone, he received a call from his former interrogator who said he wanted to say "hi," in a call that let Kazemi know he hasn't been forgotten and that his location is likely known.
Mainstream Russian TV outlets initially commiserated with the U.S. after news broke about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But, as the media came more under the Kremlin's control and President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy priorities shifted, conspiracy theories began to replace the facts.