OHCHR chief calls Russia to end crackdown, detentions of journalist


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Tuesday urged Russia to end its crackdown on journalists in a statement issued shortly after President Vladmir Putin began a fifth term in office.

Volker Türk said he was concerned by the increasing number of journalists charged, convicted and jailed for their independent reporting in what appears to be an intensification of a crackdown on dissenting voices.

He described the continuous attacks on free speech and the criminalization of independent journalism in Russia as “very troubling”.

“The intensification of the crackdown on journalists’ independent work must immediately cease and the right to inform – a key component of the right to freedom of expression – needs to be upheld,” he said.

OHCHR reported that the number of imprisoned journalists in Russia has reached an all-time high since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

It said that 30 journalists ar detained under a variety of criminal charges that include terrorism, extremism, disseminated knowingly false information about the armed forces, spying, treason, extortion, infringing upon people’s rights, violating the provisions of the law on foreign agents, inciting mass disturbances, and illegal possession of explosives or drugs.

OHCHR reported that 12 are serving sentences ranged from five-and-a-half to 22 years behind bars.

They include Vladimir Kara-Murza, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post newspaper in the United States, who was on Monday awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

It added that since March, 7 journalists have faced administrative or criminal charges for criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine or for alleged links to the late opposition politician Alexey Navalny, and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which was labeled as ‘extremist’ in 2021.

Mr. Türk said “The Russian authorities appear to be attempting to further strengthen control of the narrative, both around domestic issues and the conduct of hostilities in Ukraine,”.

“As a result, people in Russia have increasingly restricted access to non-State information and viewpoints, which hampers their ability to benefit from diverse sources and make fully informed decisions on matters of vital public interest.”

Mr. Turk expressed concern over the frequent use of the broad legislative framework to combat terrorism and extremism, urging the authorities to amend the legislation.

“Journalists should be able to work in a safe environment without fear of reprisals – in line with Russia’s international human rights obligations,” he said. “I call on the authorities to immediately drop charges against journalists detained solely for doing their jobs, and to release them.”

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