A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has sent a letter to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon urging him to help end what they say are pressure and threats to RFE/RL's Tajik Service journalists and their families. "We are writing to express concern about the reported ongoing harassment and intimidation of employees of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tajik Service (known locally as Radio Ozodi) and their families, as well as numerous obstacles that your government have used to prevent Radio Ozodi from operating freely," the eight Members of Congress wrote in their letter dated October 29.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
RFE/RL honors the memory of RFE/RL Afghan Service senior correspondent Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, who was killed one year ago on November 12 in a targeted car bombing near his home in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, as well as the sacrifices of Dayee’s Afghan Service colleagues in the tumultuous year that has passed since he was assassinated.
PEN America Holds Rally In Support Of RFE/RL Contributor Vladyslav Yesypenko Marking the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15, PEN America held a rally in front of the Russian Consulate in New York for jailed RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalist, Vladyslav Yesypenko. Ukrainian journalist and activist Maria Tomak read comments from RFE/RL President Jamie Fly: “No writer, no journalist, should ever be jailed, tortured, or mistreated simply because of the content of their words. RFE/RL will not stop in its efforts to secure Yesypenko’s release and his return to his wife and daughter on the Ukrainian mainland.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the Iranian judiciary's "unrelenting persecution" of Iranian photojournalist and activist Soheil Arabi, who must serve two years of internal exile in the southern city of Borazjan, more than 1,000 kilometers from his Tehran home, after being released earlier this week from nearly eight years in imprisonment. On November 16, Arabi was released from prison, where he was mistreated and tortured, according to a November 17 statement by the Paris-based media freedom watchdog. Iran, which is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index, "does not content itself with arresting and jailing its citizens arbitrarily but also gives them 'complementary sentences' in order to silence them forever," said Reza Moini, the head of the group's Iran-Afghanistan desk.
A bomb attack in a Shi'ite neighborhood of Kabul has killed a well-known Afghan television journalist, according to an Afghan media watchdog and the journalist's wife. The Afghan Journalists' Center tweeted the news after the November 13 blast in western Kabul's Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood, which killed Hamid Seighani, who worked for the Ariana television network. Seighani's wife, who is also a journalist, confirmed his death in a Facebook post, saying, "I have lost Hamid." (Gandhara)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an independent investigation into the killing of a blogger who lived in northwestern Pakistan, who exposed the activities of drug traffickers and alleged accomplices within the local administration. Muhammad Zada, who used his Facebook page called Citizen Journalist PK to report on social issues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Malakand district, was gunned down in his home in the town of Sakhakot on November 8 -- the second journalist to be murdered in the past week in Pakistan. (Gandhara)
The Kyiv Post, Ukraine's largest, independent English-language newspaper, has suddenly shut its operations after more than a quarter-century amid a dispute between the paper’s owner and journalists. Kyiv Post publisher and real-estate businessman Adnan Kivan announced the abrupt closure on the paper's website on November 8, saying it would be temporary. He did not give a reason for the closure, though it did not appear to be financial. "One day, we hope to reopen the newspaper bigger and better," Kivan said in the statement. However, reporters at the Kyiv Post said in a joint statement that the sudden closure came on the heels of attempts by Kivan to "infringe" on their editorial independence.
The Russian state media monitor Roskomnadzor has filed a lawsuit in a Moscow court seeking a 500,000-ruble ($6,800) fine against the news website The Insider, which was added to the country's controversial registry of "foreign agents" in July. The case is over the lack of appropriate labeling of content on The Insider website, according to TASS, citing a source in the court. A hearing date has not been set. The Ministry of Justice entered The Insider on the register of "foreign agents" on July 23 as part of a mounting crackdown on independent news media.
U.S. cybersecurity researchers say they have uncovered evidence that Belarus’ government is linked to a hacking and disinformation campaign against Eastern European NATO members. Researchers with the cybersecurity firm Mandiant said in a report issued on November 16 that the campaign, known as Ghostwriter, was primarily aimed at sowing discord and stealing information. The researchers said they assessed that the hacking group, which it calls UNC1151, is linked to the Belarusian government, and the group provides technical support to the Ghostwriter campaign.
An independent Polish journalist, who earlier this year accused an Uzbek Foreign Ministry official of sexual harassment and pressuring her to write positive articles about the country, says she has been banned from entering the Central Asian state. Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska tweeted on November 8 that she was stranded at a checkpoint along the Uzbek-Kazakh border, after Uzbek border guards refused to allow her to enter the country. "I came to Uzbekistan over three years ago hoping that change was possible. I'm leaving convinced that under current government no systemic change will ever take place," Pikulicka-Wilczewska wrote on Twitter, questioning democratic reforms promised by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who was reelected last month.
Iran’s Press Supervisory Board has shut down a newspaper apparently over a graphic that depicted the hand of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in connection with a story about rising poverty in the country. Alaedin Zohourian, the head of the press supervisory board, told the official government news agency IRNA on November 8 that board members had decided to cancel the license of the daily Kelid (Key).
The lines to purchase subsidized bread at a state-owned grocery store in the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat and other cities across this mainly desert country can last for hours as shops wait to get fresh supplies -- and sometimes shortages send people home empty-handed. Brawls even occasionally break out between people trying to get their hands on the last loaf of bread or another affordable staple that is in short supply in the energy-rich country. But Ashgabat police are detaining people who use their smartphones while waiting in line, fearing they might take photos or videos to post on social media or send to someone abroad.
A group of U.S. lawmakers have urged Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the authoritarian president of Turkmenistan, to release political prisoners in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic. U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Sherrod Brown and U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski sent the letter to Berdymukhammedov calling on him to release journalist Nurgeldy Halykov, physician Khursanai Ismatullaeva, and activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov. "We write with interest as Turkmenistan pursues an ambitious agenda under your administration to join international institutions, including the WTO, and highlight its economy to the world. Such welcome efforts to participate further in the global economy will undoubtedly be strengthened by further attention to your country’s human rights record," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, dated November 16.
Ex-President Petro Poroshenko says he has sold two television stations to current and former employees to comply with a controversial new law targeting Ukraine's wealthiest individuals. Poroshenko, a billionaire who served as president from 2014 to 2019, said in a November 8 video statement posted on the website of his party, European Solidarity, that he was "forced" to sell the channels following the signing of a bill known as the anti-oligarch law. He also accused his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of seeking to limit freedom of speech.
Pyotr Verzilov, the publisher of the independent media website Mediazona, has been added to Russia's wanted list for allegedly hiding his dual citizenship. Verzilov's lawyer, Leonid Solovyov, confirmed on November 15 that his client's name appeared on the wanted list on the Interior Ministry's website over his alleged failure to report to authorities that he also holds Canadian citizenship. Mediazona reported that Verzilov was added to the registry in January. Solovyov said that Verzilov had never hidden his Canadian citizenship, a fact that had been known in public circles for years.
A Russian court has ordered Google to pay 2 million rubles ($28,085) for violating the country's rules on banned content. In recent months, Russian courts have ordered Google to pay fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to delete banned content on its search engine and YouTube. Courts have also fined Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, and TikTok on similar charges. Google confirmed the November 8 fine, but gave no additional comment.