Freedom House: Russian authorities in Crimea maintain chokehold on media
Despite the release of Crimean journalist Mykola Semena after four years of probation and a ban on leaving Crimea, the media in the annexed Crimea remain tightly restricted, with professional and citizen journalists facing reprisals for their work.
“Freedom House celebrates Mykola Semena’s release and acquittal,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House, in the official statement released on February 3.
According to him, this represents “a small victory” in the protection of media freedom in Crimea, 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,” Behrendt added.
Freedom House reminds that at least 10 other professional and citizen journalists from Crimea remain behind bars; many are Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Crimean Solidarity civic movement.
As reported, on 28 January, Mykola Semena, a journalist of the Radio Liberty project “Crimea.Realities”, received documents from a district court in Simferopol confirming that his suspended sentence had been lifted and his criminal record expunged.
On September 22, 2017, Semena was convicted in annexed Crimea for his journalistic activities, received a 2.5-year suspended sentence and was banned for three years from engaging in journalistic activities.