The Russian government is preparing a new act of political reprisal against critics of its actions on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014 in direct contradiction to international law.
On 17 February, a trial of a Crimean journalist, Mykola Semena, begins. He has been put on trial for daring to publicly express his opinion that is against the Kremlin’s policy. His publications on Radio Liberty about the situation in Crimea have provoked anger of the Russian authorities. He was accused of public incitement to violation of Russia’s territorial integrity through the media and is facing up to 5 years in jail.
In the very first days after Russian military officers without any insignia occupied government buildings in Crimea in February-March 2014, immediate steps were taken by the Russian authorities to repress the freedom of speech on the peninsula. Ukrainian television channels were substituted in cable networks by the Russian ones, and opportunities for gathering information were limited to all but Russian journalists. After Russian control was fully installed on the peninsula, the Russian authorities ordered blocking of Ukrainian media on the internet and closed the Crimean-Tatar TV channel ATR.
However, persecution of independent journalists is the most acute problem with freedom of expression in Crimea. Much of the persecution is based on the Russian Federation Criminal Code Article 280 that was deliberately amended after the annexation of Crimea. These amendments have increased liability for public calls to violation of territorial integrity of Russia through the media. Criminal cases against five other journalists in Crimea have been opened on the basis of these amendments. These journalists, like Mykola Semena, are facing a sentence of five years in prison. These charges directly contradict international human rights norms on freedom of expression and are clearly politically motivated.
The desire of the Russian authorities to silence critically-minded journalists is a part of their larger attempt to block truthful information about the situation on the peninsula: reprisals target not only journalists but also civic activists and all those who speak up against the illegal annexation of Crimea.
The Civic Solidarity Platform is outraged by the harsh actions undertaken by the Russian authorities against those who express peaceful dissent regarding its policies in Crimea. CSP member organizations express their support to and solidarity with Mykola Semena and call on inter-governmental organisations and the international community to strongly and clearly speak up against the repressive actions of the Russian Federation in Crimea.