Despite release of journalist, Russian authorities maintain chokehold on media – Freedom House
Freedom House celebrates Mykola Semena’s release and acquittal, but at the same time, the institution noted that Russia maintain chokehold on mass media, as Freedom House in Ukraine said in its statement.
“This represents a small victory in the protection of media freedom in Crimea”, - said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House, - “because the criminal charges initiated against Semena four years ago were entirely motivated by his critical reporting on the Russian Federation’s unrecognized annexation of the peninsula. But the media remain tightly restricted in Crimea, with professional and citizen journalists facing a range of reprisals for their work. Crimean Tatar journalists in particular are subject to harsh penalties. Their sentences, like Semena’s, should be reexamined. It is important that the United States, the European Union, and the international community insist on fair and thorough investigations of such cases.”
The journalists in Crimea are frequently severly persecuted, as Freedom House said. “The independent professional and citizen journalists who have remained in Crimea frequently face harassment, surveillance, enforced disappearance, forced hospitalization, criminal proceedings, or bans from the Russian Federation in an effort to prevent them from reporting on local developments, including human rights abuses. (…) At least 10 other professional and citizen journalists from Crimea remain behind bars; many are Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Crimean Solidarity civic movement. They were arrested on accusations of terrorism and alleged ties to the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned as an extremist organization in the Russian Federation.”
IMI reported, on January 14, the court in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, on January 14 ruled to prematurely terminate the probation period and expunge the criminal record of Mykola Semena, who had been convicted of separatism on the peninsula.