Russian troops are using force to target journalists in the occupied Ukrainian regions. According to a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Russian troops in the mostly occupied Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine create “lists of leading local figures to be kidnapped,” with a particular focus on journalists. Some journalists in the Zaporizhzhia region have been abducted themselves, while others have been pressured.
In the areas controlled by the Ukrainian government (particularly the city of Zaporizhzhia itself, the regional centre, which is not occupied), cases of harassment and threats against journalists abound. In the occupied areas, however, all print media outlets stopped publication “because their staff refused to cooperate with the Russian occupiers,” according to RSF.
Reporters Without Borders emphasises that targeting journalists is a war crime. Since Russia openly invaded Ukraine in February, Russian forces have repeatedly attacked Ukrainian media infrastructure, using rocket strikes, hacking attacks, and other means.
Even when Russia is not targeting journalists specifically, reporters fall victim to attacks on Ukrainian cities. On Thursday, Russia struck Kyiv, hitting a residential home in the centre of the Ukrainian capital. Vira Hyrych, a journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was killed as a result of the attack.
Hyrych worked as journalist and producer at RFE/RL’s Kyiv bureau for the last four years. Before, she worked for several nationwide TV channels in Ukraine. Her body was discovered on the next day of the strike; as of Friday, she appeared to be the only person killed in this particular attack, with several other people wounded.
At home, Russian authorities continue their efforts to suppress free speech as well. On Tuesday, a court in Moscow fined the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, for not removing Wikipedia articles about Russia that don’t fit with the official state line.
It’s the first fine imposed on the Wikimedia Foundation in Russia. The organisation is likely to appeal the decision, though it hasn’t publicly commented on the court ruling yet. Since the March crackdown on independent media and Western social platforms, Wikipedia remains one of the last propaganda-free corners of the Internet in Russia.
The Washington Post reports that, according to an assessment by the US government, Russian state intelligence services were behind the attack on Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta chief editor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Muratov was attacked in early April while on a train trip in Russia. An assailant covered him with red paint and acetone, causing a chemical burn to his eyes. US intelligence agencies believe Russian intelligence services orchestrated the attack, though they declined to share details of the assessment, Washington Post reports.
Novaya Gazeta, the last major independent newspaper to remain in Russia, suspended publication in late March in the light of Russia’s war censorship. In April, its reporters launched Novaya Gazeta Europe, a new publication headquartered in Riga and led by Kirill Martynov, formerly the politics editor at Novaya Gazeta.
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