Vox Pop Vexation
RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service correspondent in Moscow, Umid Bobomatov, received several death threats by phone from April 15-16 after he reported on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in show. Bobomatov produced a video vox pop from Red Square asking Uzbek migrants what they would ask their own president if given a similar opportunity. Most were hesitant to answer on camera. When Bobomatov silenced his phone to avoid the threatening calls, he started receiving alarming text messages, one of which warned him, “watch your back,” and stated that someone had already been “sent after” him.
"Current Time" Correspondents Targeted
Two freelance contributors to the Russian language TV news program "Current Time" were stopped by law enforcement officers in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk last week after reporting on a recently opened Putin-themed restaurant called President Café. One of the contributors was stopped again later by uniformed officers as he entered his apartment building. The officers checked his documents and suggested he “be more careful” in his line of work.
In a separate incident, a Current Time correspondent in Yekaterinburg, Russia was approached by what appeared to be security forces, though they refused to say which agency they represented. They told the correspondent they know who she works for.
The office for Crimea's de facto prosecutor-general said April 19 that journalist Mykola Semena has been ordered not to leave the peninsula while he is being investigated by the Russia-backed authorities. Semena, who is an outside contributor to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, is being investigated for alleged "calls for undermining the Russian territorial integrity via mass media."
Meanwhile, police conducted forced searches at the homes of seven journalists across Crimea, one of whom now faces up to five years in prison on criminal charges related to his work. International rights watchdogs and press freedom advocates have condemned the charges and searches.