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Semena Released; Tajikistan Withholds Accreditations; A Kazakh ‘Titushka’


Kazakhstan – Akzhol Akhmetova was involved in an attack on journalists in Almaty, and later seen working in a municipal office.

Who's The Woman Who Helped Attack Kazakh Journalists?
Last summer, a group of women mobbed Kazakh journalists at a human rights conference in Almaty, hitting them and breaking their cameras. One of the women, Akzhol Akhmetova, was later spotted working at a municipal office and also appeared to assist local officials, prompting locals to label her a "titushka," a plainclothes provocateur. In a recent interview with RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Akhmetova denied any government connections.

INCIDENTS AND THREATS

Russian Authorities Release Crimea Journalist, But Continue To Block Information About Region
Mykola Semena, a Crimean contributor to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, has been released from house arrest in a case that has become synonymous with Russia’s efforts to silence independent voices on the peninsula.

Russia Bans Ukrainian Journalist From Entering Crimea Until 2054
RFE/RL Crimea contributor Taras Ibragimov has been barred by Russia’s FSB from entering Crimea until 2054, a shocking 34 years. Human Rights Watch has deplored the ban and accused Russia of “trying to silence” the flow of information from the peninsula by prohibiting Ukrainian journalists from traveling there.

RFE/RL Lviv Correspondent’s Car Set On Fire
A car belonging to Lviv-based RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Halyna Tereshchuk was set alight and burned beyond repair near midnight on January 29 by an unknown person wearing a mask. There were no injuries. Tereshchuk has not ruled out the possibility that the attack is related to her reporting, and has asked the police to investigate. She has reported on a wide range of subjects, including Ukraine’s defense ministry, Ukrainian-Polish historical relations, Ukrainian volunteer fighters, and the country’s cultural revival.

Media Freedom Groups Express Unease Over Ukrainian Disinformation Bill
Media freedom watchdogs and journalists’ associations are expressing concern over a bill aimed at combating Russian disinformation. Critics say the draft law put forward by the Culture, Youth, and Sports Ministry on January 20 foresees excessive intrusion of governmental regulation and control in the sphere of media, and could be used to harass journalists.

RFE/RL Files Documents To Register As 'Foreign Agent' With Russian Tax Service
RFE/RL's Russian Service has filed documents with Russia's Federal Tax Service to register as a "foreign agent" to comply with a law that critics say the Kremlin uses to muzzle dissent, limit news plurality, and discourage the free exchange of ideas.

Former Moscow Police Officers Detained In Journalist Golunov Case
Five former Moscow police officers have been charged in the fabricated drug-trafficking case against Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was arrested and then released amid a public outcry and allegations of police corruption in June last year. The Basmanny district court's press service said on January 30 that the former officers were charged with abuse of service duties, falsification of evidence, and illegal handling of drugs.

Putin Fires Chuvashia Governor Who Called For Journalists To Be 'Wiped Out'
President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the governor of the Russian region of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatyev, who drew outrage earlier this month after remarking at a public event on Press Day that "it is necessary to wipe out those journalists" who criticize the authorities. The Kremlin said on January 29 that Putin relieved Ignatyev of his duties due to a "loss of trust."

Ekho Kavkaza Contributor Sued By South Ossetia Official
Irina Kelekhsayeva, a contributor to Ekho Kavkaza, RFE/RL’s service to Georgia’s break-away republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, has been sued by South Ossetia Justice Minister Zalina Laliyeva for defamation. The lawsuit cites a November 22, 2019 report by Kelekhsayeva on an attempt by the parliament to subject Laliyeva to a no-confidence vote. The suit claims that Kelekhsayeva “defamed the honor and dignity of an official.”

Pakistan Criticized Over ‘Draconian’ Proposal To Regulate Web TV
Reporters Without Borders has joined associations in Pakistan in calling on the country's parliament to reject a "draconian" proposal for regulating content on platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Netflix, saying it shows the "authoritarian" broadcast-media regulator's intent to censor content "relentlessly."

Tajikistan Again Fails To Fully Accredit RFE/RL Journalists
In the latest development in a protracted effort by RFE/RL to accredit its journalists in Tajikistan, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has told the country’s top diplomat that his government has failed to honor its commitments, and that RFE/RL may have to consider alternatives to its current operations.

Bishkek Court Resumes Hearing Into Libel Lawsuit Against RFE/RL, Other Media
A Bishkek court on January 29 resumed a hearing into a libel lawsuit filed against RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, its correspondent Ali Toktakunov, and the news site Kloop by the former deputy chief of the customs service, Raimbek Matraimov, and his relatives, following an alleged corruption scandal exposed by the media outlets.

Uzbek Blogger Says She Was Beaten, Threatened By Police Before Fleeing Country
Uzbek blogger Nafosat Olloshukurova told RFE/RL she was beaten, sexually harassed, and threatened with rape by police officers after she refused to give false evidence against opposition figures while in custody. Olloshukurova made the comments on January 20 after she left Uzbekistan, fearing authorities would forcibly place her back in a psychiatric institution.

Popular Blogger Missing In Tajikistan
Daler Sharifov, a Tajik journalist who is popular for his critical and analytical posts on social media, disappeared on January 28. Police had reportedly searched his apartment earlier and confiscated his computer and books printed in Arabic. His relatives believe Sharifov was taken in for questioning by Tajik state security agents in Dushanbe’s Shohmansur district.

RFE/RL IMPACT

BULGARIA: RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service, marking the first anniversary of its relaunch this week, conducted an exclusive interview with Bulgarian oligarch Vasil Bozhkov, the “king” of a gambling empire and possibly the country’s richest oligarch in the last 30 years. Bozhkov is under pressure from the government and his rivals. The interview, Bozhkov’s first in 15 years, went viral and was quoted by all major media outlets and social media platforms, including the popular bTV.

CURRENT TIME: The Current Time-commissioned documentary Earth Is Blue As An Orange had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24. The feature-length film, created by Ukrainian filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk, explores how a would-be cinematographer and her family cope with war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. It is the first Ukrainian-directed documentary to compete for the festival’s highly prestigious Best International Documentary award.

AFGHANISTAN: RFE/RL’s Afghan Service reported on Kabul’s first-ever street fashion show, a controversial event that triggered anger among the city’s religious community. The organizer told RFE/RL that their next show is planned for Saint Valentine’s Day and will take place in the conservative city of Herat. The Service’s coverage was comprehensive and unique, with one video attracting more than 700,000 views, 6,000 comments and 1,500 shares, and its reports collectively generating vigorous online discussion about religion, tradition, and modernity.

TURKMENISTAN: RFE/RL’s intrepid Turkmen Service was the country’s only media outlet to report about massive layoffs in state organizations and enterprises – the country’s main employers. It was also unique in reporting on the announcement of a ban on mobile phones in schools, educational institutions, and medical facilities as part of an effort by the government to control information.

INFOGRAPHIC: Political Prisoners In Russia

PRESSROOM: RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal Marks 10 Years Of Countering Extremism In Pakistan

READ AND SUBSCRIBE: RFE/RL’s New CHINA PAGE

About Journalists in Trouble

Journalists in Trouble is a bi-weekly report of incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists and their work, and developments affecting press freedom in our coverage region.​

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