Media Freedom Remains “Severely Restricted” in Russia – Amnesty International
An annual report produced by human rights campaign group, Amnesty International, has condemned the state of human rights in Russia.
The report, published February 23rd, claims that the world “reached a nadir” for human rights in 2015. According to Amnesty, freedom of expression, assembly and association were of particular concern in Russia.
Citing direct state control over and prevalent self-censorship within the media, Amnesty raised concerns that press freedom in Russia “remained severely restricted” in 2015. Russian authorities also strengthened their control over the internet, as the media regulator Roskomnadzor forced internet providers to block thousands of websites and pages.
The report highlighted the case of Yekaterina Vologzherinova, a shop assistant from Yekaterinburg, who ended up on trial for inciting violence for sharing satirical posts on social media criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Amnesty alleges that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Russia has been “severely curtailed”. The report draws attention to the case of Ildar Dadin, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment by a Moscow court in December last year for repeatedly participating in “unauthorized” protests.
The human rights group also expressed concern over Russia’s continuing crackdown on NGOs labelled as “foreign agents”. The report noted that, of the 111 NGOS listed on the Ministry of Justice’s register of “foreign agents”, 14 chose to close down. Not a single NGO who chose to challenge their inclusion on the register in court was successful.
The report criticized Russia over the continuing persecution of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community, and slammed the “corruption and deliberate misinformation” intended to discourage those fleeing persecution and conflict from applying for asylum in Russia.
Amnesty also expressed concern over the “deep-rooted and widespread flaws” in Russia’s justice system. The report drew special attention to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to sign a new law in December 2015 which would allow the Russian Constitutional Court to overrule international courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), if it deemed their decisions “unimplementable”.
The report went on to deliver a damning assessment of the current state of human rights in the North Caucasus. In addition to highlighting the attack on human rights group the Joint Mobile Group in Chechnya which took place in June last year, Amnesty also drew attention to allegations of the use of torture, unlawful detention and enforced disappearances practices by Chechen law enforcement agencies.
The human rights group’s findings come in the wake of a report published earlier this week by opposition figure Ilya Yashin, which alleges that Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen republic, presides over a “quasi-criminal” regime and is complicit in a number of politically motivated killings, including the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in February 2015.
The report also highlights other countries in which human rights are under attack, such as Israel, Egypt and China, and identified the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as a serious cause for concern.
by Beth Lacy
Columnist of Free Russia Foundation