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Watchdog: Russia 'Trying To Silence' Information Flow From Occupied Crimea

The OSCE's Harlem Desir
The OSCE's Harlem Desir

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Russia of “trying to silence” the flow of information from Ukraine’s Russian-occupied region of Crimea by banning Ukrainian journalists from traveling there.

“Critical reporting from Crimea is a major irritant to Russian authorities,” Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at the New York-based watchdog, said in a statement on January 21, days after Russian authorities barred journalist Taras Ibrahimov from entering the peninsula and issued him a 34-year-ban.

“Barring independent journalists from the peninsula helps to choke the flow of information about their crackdown on Crimean Tatar activists and other abuses,” she added.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities against Crimean Tatars and others who have spoken out against Moscow's military seizure and occupation of Crimea in 2014.

On January 18, Ibrahimov told RFE/RL that Russia's Border Guard Service, a branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), banned him from entering Russia and Crimea until the middle of 2054.

Ibrahimov, who works with the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, said he believed the travel ban was “connected with my journalism and my work for publications that actively cover the cases of Crimean Tatars in Crimea and in Russia."

OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir on January 21 said he deplored Russia's decision and called on “those responsible to respect the role of media actors and to allow journalists to travel without restrictions to carry out their work.”

Since 2018, Russian authorities banned a Ukrainian photographer and a Ukrainian journalist who also worked with the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service from entering Crimea and Russia until 2028. Another Ukrainian reporter was issued a four-year-ban in 2016.

With reporting by the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service