Reporters Without Borders has warned of the “oppressive” climate surrounding media freedom in Belarus ahead of the August 9 presidential election, condemning the “systematic” arrests of more than 40 journalists covering pro-democracy demonstrations.
INCIDENTS AND THREATS
Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor has proposed new instructions for media “foreign agents” that RFE/RL has said are meant to strengthen censorship and intimidate its audiences.
Belarus 1, the country’s main state-controlled TV channel, highlighted an opinion poll earlier this month that showed President Alyaksandr Lukashenka far out in front of his approved contenders with 69.4 percent of the expected vote. The survey was ridiculed on independent news sites whose own polling has led to a mocking nickname for Lukashenka that has become an opposition meme: “Sasha 3 percent.” Former state TV reporter Nadezhda Buka told Current Time that “it’s still the Soviet Union on TV” in Belarus, adding that younger people know “they will never hear the truth.”
A former reporter for the official Khabarovsk regional channel Gubernia, Aleksandra Teplyakova, has told Current Time that her colleagues were prohibited from covering protests in support of former governor Sergei Furgal and threatened with losing their jobs if such broadcasts were aired. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russia’s Federal Security Service has offered former Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov a pre-trial agreement in exchange for disclosing journalistic sources. Safronov has been accused of high treason. Earlier, FSB agents said the case had nothing to do with his work as a journalist. Safronov has reportedly rejected any such deal. Safronov is the author of several high-profile reports, including about a fire on the top-secret atomic submarine Losharik and a contract to supply Su-35 fighters to Egypt. (Russian Service)
RFE/RL Russian Service contributor Svetlana Prokopyeva has spoken to Current Time about the verdict handed down on July 16 finding her guilty of “justifying terrorism.” Prokopyeva received the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom award on July 13. Funds to help Svetlana pay her 500,000 ruble fine are being raised here. (in Russian, Current Time)
A Moscow city court has cancelled the extension of the pretrial detention of five former Moscow police officers who are suspected in the illegal arrest one year ago of Meduza investigative journalist Ivan Golunov. According to the ruling, their detention will conclude on August 1. The five have been charged with abuse of duties, falsification of evidence, and illegal handling of drugs. The case against Golunov unleashed massive public protests in Russia and was quickly overturned. (Russian Service)
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Georgian parliament for what it calls measures “restricting media freedom” less than four months before legislative elections. The media watchdog criticized attempts to "control radio and television channels" under the guise of a “crusade against disinformation.”
Serbia’s Finance Ministry has requested bank information since the start of 2019 from 20 individuals and 37 nongovernmental organizations and institutions known for their work on human rights, transparency, and exposing corruption, local media are reporting. Critics say the probe is a blatant attempt at intimidation by President Aleksandar Vucic’s government.
Matiullah Jan, a prominent Pakistani journalist known for his criticism of the country’s military, recounted his ordeal on July 21 when armed men abducted him in broad daylight and held him captive for a day. Enforced disappearances, usually by intelligence agencies, are common in Pakistan, but it's rare that a victim and survivor of such an incident goes public about it.