Report: Media Freedom in Crimea

This report by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) presents evidence of violations of fundamental human rights in relation to individual journalists, media organisations, civil society organisations and the legal community in Crimea.

Read the report here.

IPHR collected evidence of procedural and substantive violations of international and regional human rights law and disregard for other international standards in the Russian authorities’ treatment of media professionals and other civic actors (lawyers, NGOs). The report seeks to draw the international community’s attention to the bigger picture of systematic repression and silencing of dissent and criticism of Russian rule over the Crimean Peninsula.

Our findings show that the response of the Russian authorities in relation to media freedom has resulted in violations of key human rights standards, including:

  • The Russian authorities have been responsible for arbitrary and/or unlawful detentions of journalists operating inside Crimea. Journalists and other media actors have been subjected to intimidation and harassment, which appear to have been aimed at preventing them from documenting human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian authorities and their proxies. The deliberate targeting of journalists and other media actors, as well as the repeated blocking of internet sites amount to an attack on the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.
  • The Russian authorities have failed to comply with international human rights standards guaranteeing fair trial and due process rights in relation to trials of journalists. Of particular concern is the widespread use of ‘secret’ witnesses at these trials, which raises issues in relation to fair trial and ‘equality of arms’. There are also allegations that the Russian authorities forced journalists to sign confessions. Journalists and other media actors have not been allowed access to the legal advice and representation to which they are entitled.
  • The Russian authorities have weaponized the law and used anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation as a blunt tool by which to silence critical voices among journalists and other media actors. As a result, many journalists have chosen self-censorship as a precautionary measure.
  • The Russian authorities have acted in a particularly egregious manner towards the Tatar community in Crimea and the Tatar independent media has faced severe difficulties in operating fully since the occupation with forced closures of TV and radio stations and arrests, detention and prosecutions of Tatar journalists. The Russian authorities’ deliberate prosecution of Tatar journalists on trumped-up charges under anti-terrorism/extremism legislation cannot be considered legitimate and constitutes a violation of human rights standards.
  • There are worrying reports that journalists have been subjected to torture and ill treatment contrary to international human rights standards. The Russian authorities have detained journalists in solitary confinement as a means to silence them in violation of international human rights law.
  • The freedom of movement of journalists into Crimea and/or Russia has been severely restricted. The travel bans imposed on Ukrainian journalists seeking to work in Crimea are unduly onerous and disproportionate in relation to their activities and it is questionable whether they validly fall within the permitted restrictions (national security, public health etc) under international human rights law. In addition, the pandemic has provided the authorities with a perfect excuse to impose restrictions under the guise of public health which have had a negative impact upon freedom of expression.