Released By Separatists, RFE/RL Journalists Describe Imprisonment In Eastern Ukraine
Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk, two contributors to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, were among the civilians released by Russia-backed separatists in a prisoner exchange on December 29, 2019. Both had been held incommunicado for more than two years. In this interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Aseyev speaks at length on interrogation and the control of the Russian security service over the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Iran Threatens Foreign Journalists, As Local Press Group Condemns Role Of State Media In Crash Coverup
In an unprecedented move, on January 13 the Tehran Province Journalists Association called on Iran’s state-controlled media to refuse to be a mouthpiece of officials and to refrain from self-censorship. The group has said that state media coverage of developments related to the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane was a "disastrous” failure. In a threatening tweet on January 9 aimed at Iranian journalists abroad, Hesameddin Ashena, a media advisor to President Hassan Rouhani, warned "the Iranian agents of Persian-language media [abroad] not to participate in the psychological warfare regarding the Ukrainian airliner [crash] and to stop cooperating with those who are at war with Iran."
RFE/RL Contributor Mykola Semena Released From House Arrest In Crimea
A Russian-controlled court in Simferopol ruled on January 14 to release RFE/RL Crimean contributor and journalist Mykola Semena from house arrest after more than 2 years of enforced silence. Semena was convicted of “separatism” in 2017 after he published criticism of Moscow's forcible annexation of the peninsula.
Azerbaijan Urged To Lift Travel Ban On Ismayilova
Three non-governmental organizations issued a joint statement on January 15 urging Azerbaijan to lift a travel ban against investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova. Ismayilova, RFE/RL’s former bureau chief in Baku, was imprisoned on politically motivated charges from 2014-2016 after publishing reports exposing corruption linked to members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family.
Fishing Phishers In Azerbaijan
The media foundation Qurium has reported a number of phishing attempts targeting political activists and journalists in Azerbaijan during the period January 6-11. The phishing attempts, which included download links to the file transfer service wetransfer.com, used fake email addresses of prominent human rights defenders, journalists and members of the Council of Europe.
Russian Cameraman Who Spoke Out About Censorship Savagely Beaten
Leonid Krivenkov, a former cameraman for a Russian state TV broadcaster who has spoken out about political censorship and corruption at his former employer has been severely beaten by two men in Moscow, he told RFE/RL in an interview on January 15.
Russian Court Arrests Activist For YouTube Show Mocking Putin
A court in the Russian republic of Tatarstan arrested Karim Yamadayev, a local civil rights activist, on January 11 on suspicion of promoting terrorism after he mocked President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates in a YouTube video. If found guilty, Yamadayev faces up to seven years in prison.
Kyiv Court Remands Suspect In Sheremet Murder Case In Custody
A court in Kyiv on January 10 remanded Andriy Antonenko for one month in custody in connection with the 2016 killing of prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet. Antonenko was arrested in December along with two other suspects in the high-profile case. All three had taken part in military operations in Ukraine's east, where government forces are fighting against Russia-backed separatists. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said in December that Sheremet’s killing was intended "to destabilize the political and social situation in Ukraine.”
Kyrgyz Police Detain Four Men Suspected Of Assaulting Investigative Journalist
Police in Bishkek on January 14 detained four men suspected of assaulting Bolot Temirov, the editor in chief of the Kyrgyz investigative website FactCheck. Temirov was attacked near his website's office in Bishkek on January 9.
Uzbek Blogger Freed From Involuntary Psychiatric Care
An Uzbek blogger writing under the name Shabnam Olloshkurova, who was placed under involuntary psychiatric care nearly three months ago, was released on December 28. Olloshukurova, who reports about alleged corruption and abuse among politicians, had been documenting a march by a journalist and poet to petition authorities to drop a case against him.
IRAN: RFE/RL’s Radio Farda served as a critical alternative to state-run media coverage of the tragic shoot-down of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on January 8, providing multimedia, round-the-clock reporting that boosted its page views for the week to 10 million, an increase of about 40 percent over its previous average. It published daily updates from inside Iran on the protests that erupted in numerous cities after the crash, drawing on user-generated content that Farda received via citizen journalists and social platforms.
UKRAINE: The downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 in Iran was the past week’s biggest story for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. Audiences came to the Service en masse for reliable information on the developing situation, with social media videos and live streams on the topic receiving more than 4 million views on Facebook alone from January 8-11.
CURRENT TIME: Current Time’s live video reporting and independent analysis of events in Iran for Russian-speaking audiences generated 6.5 million views across platforms after January 8.A January 12 social media video of Iranian protests that erupted after Tehran admitted its responsibility for the Ukrainian airlines crash attracted over 500,000 views on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and VKontakte.
BULGARIA: A report by the Bulgarian Service in November, 2019 about a water deficit in a reservoir behind the Studena Dam near Sofia led to an investigation by the prosecutor’s office and the arrest this week of the country’s environment minister on corruption-related charges.
Incidents By Numbers: 2019 In Review
In 2019, RFE/RL documented a total of 44 incidents in which RFE/RL journalists and contributors were harassed, intimidated, threatened, assaulted, detained, or arrested because of their work. Kazakhstan and Russia led with 10 and 8 incidents, respectively, targeting journalists.
From the RFE/RL PRESSROOM
INTERNYET: Current Time and RFE/RL presented InterNYET, Russian journalist Andrey Loshak’s acclaimed documentary series on the rise and fall of the Russian Internet, to Washington, D.C. audiences this week. Click here to watch.
RADIO MASHAAL: RFE/RL’S Pashto-language service, reporting in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, marks 10 years this week of courageous journalism that counters extremism and promotes human rights.