INCIDENTS AND THREATS
An investigation by RFE/RL has found journalists at Hungary's public broadcaster faced pressure leading up to European Parliament elections in 2019, including orders to push, among other things, an anti-migrant narrative, a key issue of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. RFE/RL obtained leaked audio recordings and other testimony, including internal e-mail, indicating that editors at Hungarian broadcaster MTVA instructed reporters on how to cover certain issues, including opposition parties and candidates.
A Belarusian court has sentenced veteran RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich to 15 days in jail, finding him guilty of “participating” in a street protest -- an event which Hruzdzilovich covered as a reporter on assignment. Hruzdzilovich’s arrest and detention are an escalation of an ongoing attack on press freedom in the country.
A court in Russia's Volga Federal District has fined a journalist for spreading "false" information about the coronavirus after he criticized a church's religious gatherings for being superspreader events. The Bogorodsk city court on November 11 found Aleksandr Pichugin guilty for his post on Telegram where he criticized an Orthodox church for holding a religious gathering for its parish amid the coronavirus pandemic, calling the service "a planned action to infect people with a deadly disease."
Dozens of journalists demonstrated in Islamabad to condemn what they see as increasing governmental pressure on media outlets, including censorship, the unfair dismissal of journalists, and the nonpayment of salaries. The protesters marched in the Pakistani capital on November 11 from the Islamabad Press Club to the parliament building, chanting slogans in support of the rights of journalists. (Gandhara)
A money launderer told journalists what he knew about a secretive smuggling empire and a senior Kyrgyz official who enabled it. Now, leaked documents shed light on his shocking murder. One year ago this week, Aierken Saimaiti, a self-confessed money launderer, was gunned down in an Istanbul cafe.
Armenia's ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, has condemned the violence by protesters amid unrest triggered by the signing of a Russian-brokered agreement with Azerbaijan to end fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. RFE/RL acting President Daisy Sindelar: Armenia bureau attack “a reprehensible assault...We call on the police and public alike to support the right of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service and all independent journalists to report the news, objectively and in full, without threat of violence or scapegoating."
Several former Slovak police officials have been arrested in raids carried out over the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office on November 5 said a special police unit arrested the men on suspicion of forming a criminal network, but she did not provide further details on their specific links to the case.
The Russian government has proposed to expand the definition of “foreign sources” when an NGO is recognized as a “foreign agent.” On November 10, it introduced a document that allows it to recognize an NGO as a “foreign agent” if it receives funding from a Russian legal entity, whose ultimate owners are foreigners. Russia first implemented its law on foreign agents in 2012. According to the document, any NGO or social movement can be included in the appropriate list if they receive financial support from abroad and conduct political activities. (Russian Service)
Georgian TV Channel “Imedi” says that its journalists were attacked by opposition party members during a November 8 opposition rally. The TV Channel says the journalists were reporting on assignment and observed professional standards and journalistic ethics. The TV channel states, “If it wasn’t for the police, no one knows how November 8 would have ended for Imedi employees.” (In Russian, Ekho Kavkaza)
Marking Information and Press Day in Kyrgyzstan on November 7, Kyrgyz media organizations expressed concern about a public statement made by the Acting President and current Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov, in which he claimed that RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service had “strongly criticized and distorted his words,” which was followed by an increased number of threats on social media towards the Service. The appeal was signed by the Media Policy Institute, Investigative Journalism Foundation, Independent Union of Journalists, and a number of other media organizations. Following the appeal, Japarov’s press secretary Galina Baiterek announced that the Acting President does not condone pressure on freedom of speech and does not divide the media on the principle of acceptable and unacceptable. (in Russian, Kyrgyz Service)
During the 12th round of the annual EU-Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogue, the European Union has called on Tajik authorities to end their practice of blocking the websites of independent news agencies and to guarantee an open environment and safety for independent journalists. In addition, the delegations discussed the situation in Tajikistan’s correctional institutions, where bloody riots have taken place over the past two years. (Tajik Service)
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service reporting project Crimea.Realii was included in the short-list for the High Standards of Journalism-2020 award, in the category “For a high-quality regional/niche media project.” The winners will be announced at an official ceremony on 12 December. (Ukrainian Service/Crimea.Realii)
A court in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan ruled that blogger and journalist Aigul Utepova should be institutionalized in a psychiatric clinic. Utepova's daughter and her lawyer believe that there is no reason for this and that the court decision is based on an attempt to isolate the author of critical blog posts. Some suspect that Utepova is connected with an organization linked to fugitive tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov, who resides in France and regularly organizes unsanctioned anti-government rallies in Kazakhstan via the Internet. (Kazakh Service)
Abdulmumin Hajiyev, a journalist with Dagestan’s Chernovik newspaper, and two other individuals will remain under arrest until at least April 2021. This decision was made by Russia’s Southern District Military Court. The three have been accused of financing terrorism. The Memorial Human Rights Center has declared Hajiyev a political prisoner, and the human rights organization Amnesty International has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. (Russian Service/Kavkaz Realii)