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Arson Attack In Lviv; Censorship In Tajikistan; Iran Prepares Media For Elections


Candidates for MP protest in Baku, Azerbaijan on February 11, 2020.

Police Forcefully Break Up Postelection Protest In Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani police detained at least 20 people at a demonstration in Baku on February 11, injuring several of them. The protesters, including independent candidates, were voicing their anger over widespread violations in the parliamentary elections two days earlier.

INCIDENTS AND THREATS

Ukrainian Police Charge Major, Ex-Convict, In RFE/RL Arson Attack
Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General’s Office in Lviv has announced that an underworld criminal and a police major are suspected of collusion in the January 30 arson of a vehicle belonging to RFE/RL correspondent Halyna Tereshchuk.

Russian Investigative Journalist, Rights Lawyer Attacked In Grozny
Well-known Russian investigative journalist, Yelena Milashina, and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya on February 6. Milashina, who works for the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Dubrovina were in the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend the trial of a well-known blogger, when they were attacked by a group of unknown assailants at a hotel entrance.

Chechen Blogger Is Latest Kadyrov Critic To Die Abroad
Imran Aliyev, a 44-year-old blogger from Chechnya, was found dead on January 30 in a hotel room in the city of Lille, France. Police have made no arrests but suspect the killing could have a political motive. Known on-air as Mansur Stary, Aliyev regularly produced and published YouTube videos critical of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov since 2007.

Ukrainian Security Service Raids On TV Channel Investigative Reporters
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has been targeting TV channel 1+1’s investigative journalism program “Sekretni Materialy” (Secret Documents) ever since it broadcast an audio recording of the prime minister that led him to offer his resignation on January 15 this year. On February 5, the SBU searched the channel’s headquarters and the homes of journalists belonging to its investigative unit. The SBU claimed to be looking for illegally obtained material, although the journalists insist they obtained the leaked audio recording legally. (In Ukrainian)

Latvian President Proposes Law To Reduce Russian Language Digital Content
Latvian President Egils Levits has proposed revising a law on electronic media to increase the proportion of television programs broadcast in the official languages of the EU and the Eurozone to 80%. The proposal would have the effect of decreasing Russian-language content by about 20%. The president has said that similar requirements should apply to cable television service providers.

Georgian TV Channel's Deputy Director Resigns Due To 'Political Pressure'
Natia Zoidze, deputy director of Georgian regional public TV channel Ajara TV, resigned on February 2, as a result of a "political process." She has accused the TV channel's new director, Georgi Kokhreidze, of applying pressure for a change in editorial policies. Reporters Without Borders has stated that the resignation is "indicative of the growing political pressure on state-owned media in Georgia."

Tajik Private Broadcasters Instructed To Vet Content With Authorities
Tajikistan’s communications watchdog has instructed private radio and television companies to report about their weekly broadcast plans each Monday. The letters, seen by RFE/RL, warn broadcasters that "measures would be taken" against them if they do not provide their weekly broadcast plans by 8.00 a.m. each Monday.

Independent Tajik Journalist Detained On Extremism Charges
Independent journalist Daler Sharifov, who often writes about domestic politics and is known for his criticism of Tajik authorities, was detained on February 1 and has been charged with “inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred.” The charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to five years. A Dushanbe court denied his lawyers’ request to release him from custody during the investigation. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the charges "absurd."

Afghan Media Protest Lack Of Access To State-Held Information
Thirty Afghan media outlets issued a joint statement on February 4 denouncing the "deterioration" of access to government-related information in the country and the "carelessness" of the government in endangering media freedom in recent years.

Iran 'Muzzling' Journalists Ahead Of Parliamentary Elections
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran says intelligence agents are summoning Iranian journalists, raiding their homes, and confiscating their equipment in a campaign to silence criticism of state policies ahead of parliamentary elections on February 21. The group said in a February 11 statement that at least 10 journalists have been targeted by the intelligence arm of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps over the past two weeks.

RFE/RL IMPACT

CURRENT TIME/CORONAVIRUS: The network’s disinformation program Footage Vs. Footage took on Russian state-run media’s campaign to present the coronavirus as the brainchild of U.S. President Donald Trump, George Soros, and the CIA. A social video debunking the claims has attracted 672,000 views since February 6 on VKontakte (313,000 views), Facebook (168,000 views), Instagram, Instagram Current Time Asia, and Twitter. One viewer compared the claims to Soviet propaganda, writing, “Then as well, everyone was guilty, except for in the USSR.”

RUSSIA: RFE/RL’s Russian Service project Siberia.Realities won two prizes in the all-Russia annual “Media Together” contest for journalists and bloggers. One award went to a social video about a pensioner in the Kemerovo region who, without spending a ruble, took the initiative to resurface his street. A long-form report about the 1994 crash of an Airbus A310 airliner flying from Moscow to Hong Kong was also recognized. Ivan Golunov, the prominent Russian investigative journalist who was the subject of a fabricated court case last year, headed the jury.

AZERBAIJAN: With RFE/RL’s Baku bureau forcibly closed by the Azeri government in 2014, the Azerbaijani Service trained amateur journalists to provide user-generated content from their mobile phones to cover the February 9 snap elections. The approach helped fill the information vacuum left by regulations that excluded most traditional journalists from the polling stations. The Service’s videos received 1.3 million views on Facebook and Instagram.

📻 TODAY IS WORLD RADIO DAY: Congratulations to Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, which relies on short wave and web broadcasts to reach over 9% of its 15% audience share in Iran. In 2019, Radio Farda recorded an average of 10.6 million live listening sessions per month and 241.3 million megabytes of live-streamed audio.

PRESSROOM: RFE/RL Seeks To Expand In Russia, Despite ‘Foreign Agent’ Law

PRESSROOM: RFE/RL’s Bulgaria Service – 1 Year Old – Hits Ground Running

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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