Russia's Justice Ministry has added more reporters, including five RFE/RL journalists, to its register of "foreign media agents." Said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly, "Today's targeting by the Kremlin of five Russian nationals who work for RFE/RL is just the latest attempt to silence independent media in Russia. We will continue to fight this absurd use of the 'foreign agent' law to control the information that the Russian people can access and engage with. Our commitment to serving our audiences in Russia will not waver."
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
The chairman of Ukraine's state export-import bank has apologized for an assault on journalists with the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s Schemes (Skhemy) program during an interview earlier this week, and announced that he was stepping down until the completion of a criminal probe into the incident. "The situation around the bank is unacceptable. My overly emotional reaction and unrestrained behavior toward journalists have no justification," Ukreksimbank chief Yevhen Metsher said in a statement on October 6, two days after the incident that drew condemnation from Ukrainian journalists, politicians, the prosecutor-general, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office. Read about the Schemes investigation that touched off the scandal.
Dmitry Muratov, a co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, is chief editor of Novaya gazeta, a Russian newspaper that has repeatedly exposed corruption at the highest levels of government in the decades since its launch. The Nobel Committee described it as the "most independent newspaper in Russia today," and underlined Muratov's work to "safeguard media freedom" in his country. Also -- Novaya Gazeta Editor's Nobel Prize Seen As 'A Shield' For Embattled Russian Journalists, and Working For Novaya Gazeta Puts Its Journalists In The Crosshairs.
RFE/RL Belarus Service consultant and prominent blogger Ihar Losik has been on trial for over three months, in a closed-door process so shrouded in secrecy that even his relatives don’t know what is happening to him. Moreover, his wife Darya told RFE/RL that her letters to Ihar “were torn into pieces” by prison authorities before being given to Losik. Losik is being tried alongside Belarusian video blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, the husband of opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya; former presidential candidate and political prisoner Mikalay Statkevich; and opposition figures Uladzimer Tsyhanovich, Artsyom Sakau, and Dzmitry Papou. All six are being tried on charges widely considered to have been fabricated by Belarusian authorities, who have in the past year faced protests against the continued rule of Lukashenka. (Belarus Service)
A Belarusian journalist who has been held by police for four days is now facing charges over an article he wrote about a deadly raid by officers of the Committee of State Security (KGB) on a Minsk apartment a week ago that killed a KGB agent and the target of the raid, IT specialist Andrey Zeltsar. Henadz Mazheyka, a correspondent for the Belarusian edition of the Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, was indicted on charges of insulting a government official or inciting social hatred, the Interior Ministry said on October 4. The charges carry sentences of up to 12 years in prison.
Belarusian authorities have launched a new criminal probe against independent news website Tut.by, amid a continuing crackdown on independent media and freedom of speech. An unspecified number of Tut.by staff members are suspected of jointly inciting social hatred or discord, the Investigative Committee of Belarus said on October 7. It did not provide further details.
Radio call-in programs focusing on women's rights, produced by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, are continuing to reach listeners in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban takeover of the country. Hafiza Sadiqi, a deputy principal at a school in Kabul, spoke to Radio Azadi on October 3 about the difficult situation that female secondary-school and university students and teachers are facing in Afghanistan since the Taliban barred women from education.
A Russian court has extended by three months the pretrial detention of Ivan Safronov, a prominent former journalist accused of high treason in a case widely considered to be politically motivated. On October 4, the Moscow City Court ordered Safronov, who covered the defense industry for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti, remain in custody until January 7. Safronov is a former adviser to head Russian space agency Roskosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, who was arrested on July 7, 2020 on allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.
"We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance," Politkovskaya wrote in her 2004 book Putin's Russia. "All we have left is the Internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it's total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial -- whatever our special services, Putin's guard dogs, see fit." Fifteen years after her death, Putin remains firmly in control of Russian politics, and journalists say Politkovskaya's assessment of the situation for independent journalism was on the nose. Also, U.S., EU Call For Justice 15 Years After Russian Journalist Politkovskaya's Murder.
The advocacy group PEN America has honored three imprisoned Iranian writers during its annual gala in New York, awarding them the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. Keyvan Bajan, Baktash Abtin, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi are "celebrated writers who have been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for their writing, their defense of free expression, and their peaceful opposition to state censorship," PEN America said on October 5. The group's chief executive, Suzanne Nossel, noted that the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award is conferred on writers "whose courage prompts us to renew our collective vow to defend free societies."
In a move that adds further muscle to the Russian government’s ability to designate individuals or organizations as “foreign agents,” the Russian Federal Security Service has published a list of 60 types of non-classified information that could justify the label if released to the public. Under the September 28, 2021 order, Russians would need to forget whatever they know about Russia’s armed forces or activities in outer space lest this information end up in the hands of foreign governments, international or foreign organizations, foreign individuals or those without citizenship.