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Sakharov And Media Freedom; ‘Foreign Agent’ Fines; Journalists Behind Bars In 2019

FRANCE – Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov (left) receives the 2018 European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize from European Parliament President David-Maria Sassoli during an award ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 26, 2019.

Members Of The European Parliament Call On Russia To Revoke ‘Foreign Agent’ Law
Marking International Human Rights Day, members of the European Parliament’s Renew Europe party cited the Parliament’s longstanding support for freedom of thought and expression as exemplified in the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, expressed “support for Russian citizens working to enlighten and inform their fellow countrymen and women by providing quality news and reporting,” and called on Russian authorities to revoke the “Foreign Agent” law.


INFOGRAPHIC: Journalists Detained In 2019, By Country
The annual report by Committee to Protect Journalists found that at least 250 journalists were imprisoned worldwide this year.

RFE/RL Marks Human Rights Day Amid Growing Threats To Journalists
RFE/RL journalists, who report the news in 22 countries that lack a free press, are increasingly under pressure because they believe in the fundamental right “to seek, receive and impart information” enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. On International Human Rights Day on December 10, RFE/RL shared 10 of their stories.

Russian Federation Council Approves Fines For Media ‘Foreign Agents’
The upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, approved legislation on December 11 establishing fines for media outlets and individuals declared to be “foreign agents.” Fines begin at $155 for individuals, $779 for officials, and $7,793 for legal entities, and range as high as $1,558, $3,117, and $80,000, respectively. Violators may also be subject to arrest.

Russian Blogger Zhukov Given Suspended Sentence For 'Inciting Online Extremism'
A court in Moscow handed popular blogger Yegor Zhukov a three-year suspended sentence on December 6 after finding him guilty of inciting extremism online in a case condemned as politically motivated. Before his arrest in August, Zhukov had been building a sizeable audience on YouTube, where he posted video blogs that criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and promoted opposition protests across the country.

Kyrgyz NGO Decries Attempts ‘To Intimidate’ RFE/RL Journalists And Other Media
Kyrgyz media advocacy groups and NGOs have called a lawsuit brought against RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service by family members of former senior customs official Raimbek Matraimov an attempt to “intimidate the mass media,” and said a court order freezing the Service’s bank accounts was also a form of “pressure.” The Service has published an extensive investigative report revealing a $700 million smuggling scheme implicating the country’s customs service.

RFE/RL Says Iran Internet Shutdown May Be Harbinger Of Things To Come
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, Radio Farda, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly spoke about the increasing concern of international broadcasters about their ability to reach audiences in Iran as authorities there crack down on journalists working for foreign media outlets and obstruct access to the Internet.


BELARUS: The Belarus Service provided marathon coverage of mass protests in Minsk on December 7 - 8 against the proposed economic integration of Belarus and Russia. The Service’s live coverage on social networks received more than 2 million views, and drew thousands of new followers and subscribers to its accounts.

TAJIKISTAN: The Tajik Service continued its coverage of China’s efforts to gain a foothold in the region, reporting on a secretive agreement by which China will gain an ownership stake in the aluminum giant Talco in return for its $545 million investment in plant upgrades. Tajik officials and Talco executives have previously denied that China would receive a share in the company.

IRAN: As part of its continuing coverage of the aftermath of the country’s recent protests, Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, documented the death of 18 underage victims. To date, the Iranian government has issued no official fatality figures.


  • RFE/RL Belarus Service veteran journalist Anna Sous was named “Journalist of the Year” by the Belarusian Human Rights Alliance.
  • RFE/RL Ukrainian Service “Schemes” reporter Valeria Yegoshina received the Kyiv Post’s “Top 30 Under 30” award.
  • RFE/RL Bulgarian Service journalist Polina Paunova was a recipient of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee’s “Human of the Year” award.
  • RFE/RL Tajik Service journalist Afsana Akobirshoeva was honored for “civic-minded” reporting by the Human Rights and Rule of Law Bureau in Dushanbe.

Incidents By Number

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.

About Journalists in Trouble

Journalists in Trouble is a monthly report of incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists and their work, and developments affecting press freedom in our coverage region.​

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