Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) works in 22 languages in 26 countries where press freedom is suppressed by the government or not fully established. This year we relaunched in Bulgaria and Romania, two countries that are member states not only of the OSCE, but of NATO and the EU. I’d like to mention five areas of particular concern:
In Tajikistan, the government has seized on accreditation as a tool to silence our journalists. Currently, nine RFE/RL staff members have repeatedly applied for, and are awaiting, government accreditation; one of our correspondents has been waiting since 2017. The government cannot fulfill its commitments to press freedom if it prevents journalists from doing their jobs.
In Kazakhstan, our journalists were repeatedly, and arbitrarily, detained this year while reporting on public protests. In addition, people in plain clothes have accosted our correspondents and broken their cameras – all while the police look on.
In Kazakhstan and Russia, lawmakers and law enforcement have willfully conflated journalism with activism, accusing the foreign press, in particular, with meddling in politics when it is the job of the media to report on local events.
In Crimea, our colleague Mykola Semena remains confined to the peninsula and banned from journalism after been convicted of “separatism” for publishing an article protesting Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Our contributors Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk continue to be held in communicado since summer 2017 by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
In Azerbaijan, RFE/RL’s bureau remains closed after the government raided it in 2014 on bogus accusations it has failed to prove in court. Our website has been suspended since 2017, on grounds that we pose a threat to national security. Khadija Ismayilova is under a travel ban because of her investigations into high-level corruption involving members of the president's family.
These are attacks on the independent press, they are attacks on fundamental OSCE principles, and they are threats against the safety and security of RFE/RL colleagues. We condemn them, and call on OSCE member states and civil society for support in defending the rights of independent journalists and ending impunity for those who attack the free press.
Statement delivered by RFE/RL at the OSCE/HDIM conference, Warsaw, Poland, September 17, 2019