A Belarusian court has designated the official Telegram and YouTube channels of RFE/RL's Belarus Service and some of the broadcaster's social-media accounts as extremist in a continued clampdown on independent media and civil society, The decision to label RFE/RL's accounts "extremist" was made by the Central District Court on December 3 based on information provided by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, known as GUBOPiK. In a statement, GUBOPiK said that anyone subscribing to channels or other media designated as "extremist" may face jail time or other penalties, such as fines. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said "RFE/RL adamantly rejects this ridiculous label. We are committed to continuing to provide objective news and information to the Belarusian people, who are in need of independent media more now than ever.”
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the detention of Belarusian Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk by agents of the Belarusian government, and called for Kuznechyk’s immediate and unconditional release. [Later information revealed that Kuznechyk had been sentenced to 10 days in jail for “petty hooliganism.”] Said Fly, “The regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues its effort to crush all independent media in Belarus. Andrey was kidnapped by agents of the regime for nothing more than being a journalist. Andrey should be released immediately and allowed to return to his wife and young children. He has committed no crime.”
China and Russia have pushed disinformation and propaganda about the origins of COVID-19, unproven cures for the disease, and the efficacy of vaccines aimed at winning over foreign audiences and sowing distrust toward Western governments since the emergence of the deadly virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan two years ago, according to a new study from the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). The study found that while China and Russia have played a central role in spreading COVID-related disinformation and propaganda, they have followed largely separate strategies. It said, however, that the two countries have recently borrowed from and amplified each other’s campaigns.
The latest hearing in the trial of RFE/RL contributor Vladyslav Yesypenko took place in Russia-occupied Crimea on November 22. The court continued examining evidence about the explosive device allegedly found in his car; at one point, while explaining the evidence, an explosives expert told Yesypenko’s lawyer to “take my word for it.” The next hearing is scheduled for December 8. ALSO: on November 19, Amnesty International Ukraine launched a #WriteforRights campaign to support Yesypenko, and the U.S. Mission to the OSCE issued a statement on November 25 On Russia’s Ongoing Aggression against Ukraine and Illegal Occupation of Crimea, that called for the release of over 100 Ukrainian citizens held by Russia as political prisoners, including Yesypenko. (Ukrainian Service/Krym.Realii)
An international media rights watchdog has criticized an “extremely vague” provision in a new Pakistani law that supposedly protects journalists, saying it was “tantamount to censorship and intimidation.” Passed by Pakistan’s federal parliament last month, the 2021 Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act “neutralizes virtually” all the protection that it was supposed to provide by prohibiting all media workers from spreading “false information” and producing material that “advocates hatred” or constitutes “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement on December 1. (Gandhara)
Belarusian law enforcement officers searched the homes of several journalists and rights activists across the country as a year-long post-election crackdown on civil society and dissent continued. Dozens of news websites have been blocked in Belarus in recent months and independent media outlets shut down as part of a sweeping crackdown on information in the wake of unprecedented protests triggered by last year's presidential election, which the opposition and West say was rigged. Also read: Belarusian KGB Accused Of Using Fake Social-Media Accounts To Inflame Migrant Crisis.
Belarus's oldest newspaper was banned as “extremist" on the 115th anniversary of its establishment in the latest assault on independent media since last year’s disputed presidential election. The Nasha Niva newspaper as well as its Telegram channel and social media sites were outlawed by a Minsk court on November 23, which acted on a request from the Ministry of Information. The ruling means that anyone who publishes or reposts Nasha Niva materials can face up to seven years in prison. Belarusian authorities blocked the online newspaper in July and arrested its editor in chief, Yahor Martsinovich, and journalist Andrey Skurkol; both remain in custody.
A group of journalists in Ukraine say they have launched a new media project after leaving the Kyiv Post amid a stand-off with the newspaper's owner over editorial independence. The reporters wrote on Facebook on November 22 that the newly founded Kyiv Independent, "brought to you by the former editorial team of the Kyiv Post" would rely on fundraising and donors to finance its operations. "We are launching The Kyiv Independent because Ukraine needs on-the-ground English-language journalism of the highest quality and our community needs a news source it can trust," they said.
Russian journalist and human rights activist Viktoria Ivleva has been fined for taking part in single-person protests to support one of the country's oldest human rights organizations, Memorial, which faces possible closure. A court in Moscow on November 22 found Ivleva guilty of repeatedly violating the law on public gatherings, and ordered her to pay a fine of 150,000 rubles (more than $2,000). Ivleva was among at least seven other activists who were detained over the weekend on Moscow’s Pushkin Square. While other activists were released hours later on November 20, Ivleva remained in custody. The exact charges against Ivleva remain unclear.
Russian journalist Aleksei Malinovsky and his family have been granted political asylum in France, where they fled in September fearing for their safety after police raided their house and assaulted him. Malinovsky worked for the Novyye Kolyosa (New Wheels) newspaper in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.
A Serbian court has sentenced four former state security officers to up to 30 years in prison over the 1999 murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, an outspoken critic of the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's government. Following a retrial 22 years after the killing, the Belgrade Special Court on December 2 handed 30-year prison sentences to both the former head of Serbian State Security, Radomir Markovic, and the ex-head of Belgrade's intelligence branch, Milan Radonjic. Secret service agents Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak were each given 20 years in prison. Kurak was tried in absentia. The verdicts can be appealed.
Despite having the slowest and most expensive Internet access in the world, officials in Turkmenistan are forcing public employees to subscribe to online editions of state newspapers and magazines in Turkmenistan. Officials have engaged in similar practice in previous years as well, however, this year people have been informed that they should read the publications they subscribed to online. “Heads of institutions, as usual, are threatened to be fired if they refuse to subscribe to state publications,” one state employee told RFE/RL. (Turkmen Service)
Mr. Landsbergis, an epic documentary about Lithuania’s struggle to restore its independence, won top honors at the 34th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2021 Awards Ceremony in Amsterdam on November 25. The film, commissioned by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Current Time digital network, won the Best Film award for director Sergei Loznitsa and the Best Editing prize for Danielius Kokanauskis.