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The Risks Of Reporting The Death Toll; EU Decries Disinformation; RFE/RL Mourns Belarus Colleagues


RFE/RL Devastated By Tragedy Involving Film Crew In Belarus
RFE/RL is devastated by the loss of Vladimir Mikhailovski and Maksim Gavrilenko, two colleagues with the documentary project “Unknown Belarus,” who died in a car crash on May 13. A third colleague, independent filmmaker Lyubov Zemtsova, was critically injured and remains in a coma in a Minsk hospital.

INCIDENTS AND THREATS

EU Sees Drop In COVID-19 Disinformation, Urges More Action
In a report released on May 20, the strategic communications division of the European diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service, said that they have seen "at least a temporary decrease" in the amount of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, but external actors, notably pro-Kremlin sources, are still active in spreading false information on the outbreak.

Ukrainian President Accuses ‘Schemes’ Journalist Of Crossing Line
During a news conference in Kyiv on May 20 to mark his first year in power, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused a reporter of Skhemy (Schemes), a joint investigative project by RFE/RL and UA: Pershy television, of crossing the line of balanced journalism and breaking laws in pursuing the Ukrainian leader, a charge denied by the group.

Russian Authorities Demand Retraction From Financial Times And The New York Times Over Covid-19 Death Toll
The Russian Foreign Ministry on May 14 criticized articles published by the Financial Times and The New York Times that cast doubt on official fatality figures linked to the coronavirus, calling them “groundless speculation” and “sensational anti-Russian fake[s]” and demanding their retraction. The outlets found that Russia may be underreporting the number of deaths from the coronavirus in Moscow and St. Petersburg by as much as 70 percent. In addition, Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has asked Google to block an article about the controversy published on the website of MBKh Media. MBKh Media said it had received a message from Google on May 13 saying that the prosecutor-general’s office claimed the article contained “calls for riots, extremist activities, [and] participation in mass public events held in violation of the established order." Independent journalists across Russia have faced threats as they report on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian government's efforts to cope with it.

First Person: An RFE/RL Correspondent's Battle With COVID-19 In Russia
Lyubov Chizhova, a correspondent with RFE/RL's Russian Service, developed a fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 in late April. This is a story of her experience of getting sick and overcoming the virus.

Russian Court Rejects Crimean Blogger's Appeal
A Russian military court has rejected an appeal by Crimean Tatar blogger Nariman Memedeminov to overturn his conviction on charges of inciting extremism, leaving him to serve the rest of his sentence in prison. Rights groups have denounced what they call a campaign of oppression targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority and others who opposed Moscow's 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Belarus Blogger With Presidential Ambitions Gets Additional Jail Term
A jailed Belarusian blogger, Syarhey Tsikhanouski, who intended to take part in the August presidential election, has been given an additional 15-day jail term for what a court in the southeastern city of Homel called the "organization of an unsanctioned mass gathering."

EU Voices 'Particular Concerns' Over Hungary's Coronavirus Laws
EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova expressed deep concern to EU lawmakers on May 14 over the situation in Hungary, where right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban was granted sweeping powers under a package of emergency measures aimed at fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Independent Bulgarian TV Station Accuses PM Of 'Spreading False Rumors'
An independent Bulgarian television station has accused Prime Minister Boyko Borisov of "spreading false rumors" after he insinuated it was working at the behest of exiled oligarch Vasil Bozhkov, the nation's wealthiest businessman.

Turmoil At Public Broadcaster Compounds Concerns About Media Freedom In Georgia
Recent decisions by the Adjara public broadcaster to dismiss leading journalists have raised concerns among watchdogs about media freedom in Georgia. The dismissals came just as Facebook announced that it had removed 511 pages, 101 accounts, and 122 groups linked to Espersona, a media platform founded by a PR strategist with Georgia's ruling party. The platform has been associated with the spread of disinformation about opposition parties, social activists, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran Jails Critical Journalist For 'Spreading Propaganda'
Iranian journalist Nejat Bahrami has started serving a one-year prison sentence this week, in what the Committee to Protect Journalists called another step by authorities to "muzzle" the press. Bahrami, a freelance columnist who has written for several publications in Iran, was convicted in August 2019 by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran of "spreading propaganda against the system" and "colluding to disturb the public order" over his writing critical of Iran's political establishment.

SCREENING: STALIN’S FUNERAL
The official mourning following the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin epitomized the cult of personality constructed around him. It is the subject of the new immersive documentary, State Funeral, by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, shown on Current Time.

WATCH: GMFUS - RFE/RL Briefing: A New Time Of Troubles In Putin’s Russia?

LISTEN: MAJLIS PODCAST: Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, And The Coronavirus

RSVP: GMFUS - RFE/RL Briefing: COVID Crisis and Media Freedom In Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, May 28

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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