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Russia’s Newest ‘Foreign Agents’; Uzbek Threats; Broadcasting Through Iran’s Information Blackout


RUSSIA – A view of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of Russian parliament) building in Moscow, September 15, 2016.

Russian Duma Approves 'Foreign Agents' Bill For Individual Journalists
The Russian Duma has approved the final reading of a bill designating individual reporters who work for organizations officially listed as “foreign agents” as “foreign agents” themselves. The law appears to target reporters working for RFE/RL, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and VOA.

INCIDENTS AND THREATS

Russian Justice Ministry Declares RFE/RL's Northern Russia Regional Unit 'Foreign Agent'
Russia's Justice Ministry on November 15 designated RFE/RL's new Northern Russia (Sever.Realities) reporting unit a “foreign agent.” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called the label "politically motivated,” and an “attempt to deprive Russian audiences of access to information that is not under Kremlin control.”

RFE/RL Continues To Press For Accreditation In Tajikistan
Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry continues to withhold the routine accreditations of 11 RFE/RL Tajik Service journalists and staff, preventing them from working. It has granted only temporary credentials – for three and six months – to another seven. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on November 7 to press for the rights of Tajik audiences to receive objective reporting, and for RFE/RL journalists to be immediately and fully credentialed.

Belarus Service Journalists Attacked On Eve Of Elections
RFE/RL Belarus Service camera crew members Ales Pilecky and Andrej Rabcyk were attacked by unknown persons in front of the Interior Ministry in Minsk while they were livestreaming a street rally on the eve of the country’s November 17 parliamentary elections. One of the attackers approached the crew with a firecracker in her hands. A camera and tripod were damaged.

RFE/RL Ukrainian Contributor Stanislav Aseyev Honored On Day of Imprisoned Writer
PEN America dedicated its annual event marking the Day of the Imprisoned Writer (also known as “Empty Chair Day”) on November 15 to RFE/RL Ukrainian contributor Stanislav Aseyev and called for his immediate release. Aseyev was sentenced to 15 years in prison on “treason” charges last month after being held incommunicado since July 2017 by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk. A companion event in Kyiv was co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, PEN Ukraine, Razom, and Tyzhden magazine.

Digital Intimidation Used To Pressure Journalists In Serbia
The Share Foundation, a digital rights and freedoms organization, recorded 54 cases of digital rights violations in Serbia from April to September this year. During this period, threatening content, security threats, and insults and unfounded accusations constituted the majority of violations. They targeted mainly journalists, but also activists, public figures, politicians and citizens.

Uzbek Journalists Resign After Tashkent Mayor's Threats
Two Uzbek journalists resigned from the online news site Kun.uz on November 20 after Tashkent Mayor Jahongir Ortiqkhojaev allegedly threatened and insulted three of the outlet’s reporters. Ortiqkhojaev is believed to be the man heard in a November 16 audio recording threatening to "destroy" the journalists and stigmatize them by “turn[ing] them into gays."Kun.uz has said that "all the misunderstandings" between it and the mayor had been resolved. In a separate incident, Uzbek authorities told reporters on November 12 not to politicize the death of prominent journalist Davlat Nazar, an outspoken government critic killed in a road accident that many believe is suspicious.

Turkmen Children Questioned Over Families’ Use Of RFE/RL
Correspondents with RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service have reported that primary school students aged 6-10 in two provinces in Turkmenistan are being asked by teachers and principals whether anyone in their family listens to Radio Azatlyk, (as the Service is known locally), visits its website, or mentions it in their conversations. In one province, children have been asked about the kind of smartphone their parents use, and have been shown screenshots of the Azatlyk website and logo.

RFE/RL IMPACT

IRAN: Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, has ramped up its operations in response to a government-imposed Internet blackout that has reduced Iran’s connectivity with the outside world to 4% of normal levels, blocking the population’s ability to receive and exchange news. Since November 15, Radio Farda has doubled the shortwave and satellite airtime of its five primetime audio magazines. It has managed to obtain several videos and other reporting from users who have found ways around the blockage, using the content in original, live news broadcasts that have attracted expanding audiences across all platforms. Farda’s Instagram account reached 1.4 million followers just as the protests began, and has gained another 33,000 followers since November 15, five times more than during a normal week. A DDOS attack on a Radio Farda telephone answering machine was a transparent attempt to further thwart users’ ability to convey comments and news. As events in Iran continue to unfold, RFE/RL’s Iran experts are available for comment.

BELARUS: RFE/RL Belarus Service focused much of its November 17 election coverage on election violations as reported by international observers and monitors, in some cases using its Telegram channel to crowd-source and verify complaints. It profiled new faces who were taking part in the process from the opposition, and provided comprehensive livestreaming of three opposition street protests that was unparalleled in the country’s highly restricted media market.

UKRAINE: On November 14, RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities unit launched 24/7 broadcasts on a medium wave frequency (648 AM), allowing programming to be heard across the entire Crimean peninsula – minus mountainous areas and a narrow Black Sea coastal strip in the south. The AM signal, broadcast from a 10kw transmitter located on the Ukrainian mainland near the administrative border with Crimea, can also be heard in eastern and southern Ukraine and even southern parts of Russia. The broadcaster has already received calls from new listeners.

CURRENT TIME: To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2009 murder of imprisoned Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Current Time produced a broad range of material, including a chronology of Russia’s official case against Hermitage Capital and Magnitsky, an interview with Hermitage Capital founder Bill Browder about Magnitsky’s legacy, and an interview with Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., the Russian democracy activist who, as a U.S.-based journalist, actively supports the Magnitsky Act. The package received almost 1 million views on combined platforms, with the majority on the Russian social network, VKontakte.

Incidents By Numbers

Aggregate incidents by country for 2019 in which RFE/RL journalists and contributors have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, assaulted, detained, or arrested because of their work.
Aggregate incidents by country for 2019 in which RFE/RL journalists and contributors have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, assaulted, detained, or arrested because of their work.

REPORTING 1989: RFE/RL’s Role In Eastern Europe’s Revolutions

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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