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Journalists in Trouble: Russian Authorities Bring New Charge Against Alsu Kurmasheva


Alsu Kurmasheva and her husband Pavel Butorin
Alsu Kurmasheva and her husband Pavel Butorin

Alsu Kurmasheva faces new charge; four RFE/RL journalists mark Human Rights Day behind bars; and more.

RUSSIA: RFE/RL Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva Faces New Charge

Russian investigators have reportedly filed another case against RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who has already been held in Russian custody since October 18 on false “foreign agent” charges. On December 12, Russian media reported that Alsu faces new charges under Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, which effectively criminalizes reporting about Russia’s war on Ukraine. If convicted on both charges, Alsu faces a maximum combined sentence of 15 years in prison.

Responding to the news, RFE/RL acting President Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin said, “We strongly condemn Russian authorities' apparent decision to bring additional charges against Alsu. Journalism is not a crime. It is time for this cruel persecution to end. Alsu has already spent 56 days unjustly detained and separated from her family."

Alsu is an American citizen who lives in Prague, Czech Republic with her husband and two young daughters. She traveled to Russia for a family emergency and was detained on false charges on October 18. On December 1, a court in Kazan, Russia ruled to extend her wrongful detention through February 5, 2024.

In November, RFE/RL’s Washington D.C. office hosted Pavel Butorin, Alsu’s husband and the Director of Current Time, RFE/RL’s 24/7 Russian-language digital and TV network. Pavel spoke with U.S. government officials, civil society leaders, and the press about Alsu’s imprisonment.

ICYMI: Watch Pavel Butorin’s remarks at the National Press Club and the Hudson Institute. Special thanks to Paul Beckett, Assistant Editor at the Wall Street Journal and advocate for Evan Gershkovich, for his participation.

Alsu’s family calls on the U.S. State Department to immediately designate her as “wrongfully detained” and mobilize resources for her release. RFE/RL joins this call, which was echoed by more than a dozen civil society organizations in a letter to Secretary of State Blinken on November 28. Eight U.S. lawmakers also called on Secretary Blinken to issue the designation, in a December 1 letter led by Del. Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Schiff (D-CA). RFE/RL thanks them for their support.

Catch up on the latest reporting on Alsu’s case in the Wall Street Journal, France24, and The Post, a student-run newspaper at Ohio University, where Alsu’s husband Pavel Butorin is an alum. Listen to Pavel on The Power Vertical Podcast with Brian Whitmore.

TAKE ACTION: Stay informed by visiting the Free Alsu Kurmasheva page on RFE/RL’s website. Use and share this advocacy toolkit to join the call for Alsu’s release. If you are in the U.S., use this template to contact your elected officials about Alsu’s case.

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Four RFE/RL Journalists Remain Behind Bars in Crimea, Belarus, Russia

On Human Rights Day on December 10, RFE/RL stood in solidarity with our colleagues behind bars: Alsu Kurmasheva in Russia, Andrey Kuznechyk and Ihar Losik in Belarus, and Vladyslav Yesypenko in Russia-occupied Crimea. They will all spend the holiday season away from their spouses and young children.

Andrey marked two years behind bars on November 25. Vladyslav has not seen his wife Kateryna and their daughter Stefania for more than 1000 days. Ihar is held incommunicado. His family has not heard from him for nearly 300 days. Alsu is not permitted calls with her daughters, who haven’t seen her in more than six months.

Alsu, Andrey, Ihar, and Vladyslav have done nothing wrong. They must be released to their families immediately.

TAKE ACTION: We encourage you to write holiday cards to imprisoned RFE/RL journalists. Here’s how.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN: RFE/RL Continues Search for Safe Havens for Afghan Journalists

As the human rights situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, a number of RFE/RL staff remain stranded in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. They were left behind by U.S. evacuation efforts and have no clear pathway to safety. Those in Afghanistan fear for their lives, as many have been personally targeted by the Taliban for their work. Those who have made it to stopover locations are vulnerable to anti-refugee crackdowns including the ongoing mass forced deportations of Afghans from Pakistan.

As U.S. taxpayer-funded media workers, these individuals are eligible for refugee admission to the United States, but this provides little protection in the absence of a safe and legal way out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. RFE/RL stands ready to work with the U.S. government to facilitate the speedy evacuation and resettlement of our Afghan staff and their families.

My name is Deniz Yuksel, Senior Advocacy Officer here at RFE/RL and the author of Journalists in Trouble. Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter and for standing with persecuted journalists.

If you are interested in collaborating to amplify the stories of our imprisoned journalists, you can reach me by emailing advocacy@rferl.org. And, if you know someone who may be interested in Journalists in Trouble, click here to forward this edition to them.

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