US calls on Kremlin to end crackdown on press freedom

The student arrests are the latest in the Kremlin’s ongoing crackdown on free and independent media, which includes arrests and reports of torture of journalists, and a legal system that censors critics of the regime.

“Russia’s ongoing campaign against independent media has escalated dramatically, further restricting expression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a March 18 tweet. “This is unacceptable. The Russian people, like everyone else, have the right to freely seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

Freedom House, in its annual Media Freedom Index for 2021, calls Russia’s media environment “controlled” and its judicial system “subordinate” to President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian political system. “Attacks, arrests, raids on offices and threats against journalists are common, and authorities actively targeted journalists outside of Moscow throughout 2020,” the report said.

Well-documented examples of abuse of journalists by the Russian government include:

  • Russian authorities arrested Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) contributor Vladislav Yesypenko in Russian-occupied Crimea on March 10. He told a court on April 6 that Russian security forces tortured him with electric shocks, beat him and threatened him with death. him.
  • Russian authorities arrested Ivan Safronov, a former journalist with Russian newspaper Kommersant, in July 2020 for high treason. He is still in jail and says details of the charges against him have not been released.
  • A Russian court on February 16 rejected the appeal of Yuri Dmitriyev, a historian of the crimes of Joseph Stalin during the Soviet era, who is serving 13 years in prison. He argued that the charges against him are baseless and based on fabricated evidence, in retaliation for his work documenting extrajudicial killings and forced labor camps.
  • Elena Milashina of independent Russian media Novaya Gazeta reports that she has faced death threats for her reporting in Chechnya and alleged abuses that Russian authorities have failed to investigate.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Russia has been repeatedly fined by the Russian government. (© Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

The Kremlin specifically targeted RFE/RL, a private, nonprofit news organization that provides objective information and supports democratic values ​​in countries where governments restrict or prohibit press freedom. Although funded by a US government grant, RFE/RL’s editorial independence is protected by US law.

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has fined RFE/RL more than $2 million and issued 520 violations against the outlet since January for refusing to highlight its reporting as “material prepared by a foreign media functions of a foreign agent. requirements that currently apply only to RFE/RL and other affiliated outlets and individuals in the United States.

These actions by the Russian government are “an attempt to suppress the freedom of expression and human rights of the Russian people,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in an April 16 statement.

Meanwhile, Russian state-run media operate freely in the United States.

Russian independent journalists pledge to continue their efforts to hold the Russian government to account.

“We will not stop our activities,” Doxa editors said in a statement, noting that journalists in Russia are facing unprecedented pressure. “We will continue to highlight what is important to young people and to defend their rights.”

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