Screw tightens in Russia and Belarus
The Russian Ministry of Justice on Sept. 1 designated Dmitry Muratov, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning internationally esteemed journalist, as a "foreign agent." This classification was justified on the grounds that Muratov "used foreign platforms to disseminate opinions aimed at forming a negative attitude towards the foreign and domestic policy of the Russian Federation." The label, reminiscent of the "enemy of the people" designation of the Soviet era, imposes harsh constraints on activities and requires sources of funding to be disclosed. The 2015 law has been widely used by the Kremlin to silence critics.
Muratov held the position of editor at independent Novaya Gazeta, which suspended publication in March 2022 in response to threats from the authorities following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Many of its journalists have regrouped to establish a new publication, Novaya Gazeta Europe, now headquartered in Latvia. Novaya Gazeta, founded in 1993 by former Soviet leader and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, was one of the rare media outlets in Russia openly critical of the policies of President Vladimir Putin. (Jurist, The Guardian)
In Apri 2022, Muratov was attacked with red paint while riding on a train in Russia. Novaya Gazeta won notoriety for uncovering the mass detention of homoseuxals in Chechnya in 2018, and one of its journalists, Yelena Milashina, suffered a violent attack in the Chechen Republic earlier this year.
On Aug. 31, a court in Gomel, Belarus, sentenced journalist and human rights activist Larysa Schchyrakova to three and a half years in prison, and imposed a fine of 3,700 rubles ($1,465). She was accused of "insulting" government officials, disseminating "false information," and promoting "extremist" activities. Her human rights organization, Gomelskaya Viasna, was also ordered banned. The charges concern Schchyrakova's advocacy and rights monitoring work during the 2020 anti-government protests in Belarus. (Jurist)
Last October, Belarus imprisoned Nobel-winning human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski.