Russia: Media Freedom Coalition statement (October 2021)

The Media Freedom Coalition has released a statement on the treatment ofjournalists in Russia.

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Coalition express their deep concernabout the Russian government’s intensifying harassment of independent journalists andmedia outlets in Russia. Media freedom is vital to the effective functioning of free andopen societies and is essential to the protection of human rights and fundamentalfreedoms.
This year has seen the Russian authorities systematically detain journalists and subjectthem to harsh treatment while they reported on protests in support of imprisonedopposition figure Aleksey Navalny. In April, the office of student journal DOXA wassearched in relation to spurious charges and four editors were then subjected to severerestrictions on their freedom. On 29 June, Russian authorities raided the apartments ofstaff members of investigative news website Proekt on the same day the outlet publishedan investigation into alleged corrupt practices by Russia’s Interior Minister. Proekt wasadded to Russia’s list of “undesirable foreign organizations,” the first media entity toreceive that designation. In addition, Russian occupation authorities in Crimea have heldRadio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reporter Vladislav Yesypenko since March andhave reportedly tortured him in detention. On 15 July, Yesypenko was indicted onspecious charges and faces up to 18 years’ imprisonment. On 8 October, Russianauthorities applied the label of “media foreign agent” to the international investigativejournalism project Bellingcat, known for their investigation of the poisoning of Navalny.
In an unambiguous effort to suppress Russians’ access to independent reporting, theRussian government introduced onerous labelling requirements for so-called “mediaforeign agents” last year. Since then, it has charged RFE/RL with more than 600 violations,
resulting in fines totalling more than $4.4 million. Russian authorities rejected RFE/RL’sappeals of initial fines in March and froze the local bank accounts of RFE/RL’s Moscowbureau on 14 May, placing the bureau at risk of bankruptcy. It increasingly appears theRussian government intends to force RFE/RL to end its decades-long presence in Russia,
just as it has already forced the closure of several other independent media outlets inrecent years.
In addition to RFE/RL, authorities have applied the “media foreign agent” label toindependent Russian outlets operating within or near Russia’s borders, Meduza, ImportantStories, VTimes, The Insider, Mediazona, OVD-Info, Medium Orient, PASMI news, MoscowDigital Media and TV channel Dozhd, undercutting their ability to operate. As a result ofthis crackdown, VTimes was forced to announced its closure less than a month after itsdesignation. Over the past for months, Russian authorities added dozens more Russianjournalists to their “foreign agent” list. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists,
10 journalists are currently imprisoned in Russia simply for carrying out their work. We also note the Russian authorities decision to expel BBC Journalist Sarah Rainsford – a retrograde step that further damages the cause of media freedom in Russia.
The 17-19 September Duma elections in the Russian Federation were preceded by Russian government restrictions towards journalists and media workers. Journalists and media workers were threatened, forcibly expelled from the polling stations and force was being used against them. These actions contradict Russia’s international commitments.
While concerns related to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Russia have intensified, they are not new. We stand in solidarity with independent Russian journalists who assume personal risk in carrying out their professional activities, and we honour the memory of those reporters whose intrepid work has cost them their lives,
including Natalia Estemirova, Anna Politkovskaya, and Paul Klebnikov. We applaud Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, for winning Nobel Peace Prize. This award underlines the important work all independent journalists and media workers in the Russian Federation have done for years, fighting for human rights, including freedom of expression.
We reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s targeting and harassment of independent journalists and media outlets. We urge the Russian Federation to comply with its international human rights commitments and obligations and to respect and ensure media freedom and safety of journalists. We call on the Russian government to cease its repression of independent voices, end the politically motivated proceedings against journalists and media organizations, and release all those who have been unjustly detained.


the Czech Republic
the United Kingdom
the Netherlands
the United States
New Zealand
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