June 5, 2024

05.06.2024 – Russian Court Extends Detention of Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva

A Russian court has extended the pretrial detention of Alsu Kurmasheva (Алсу Курмашева), a journalist with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir Service (RFERL – https://www.rferl.org/), until 5 August 2024, amid escalating concerns about press freedom in Russia. Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, has been imprisoned since 18 October 2023, on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and spreading false information about the Russian military.

On 31 May 2024, the Sovetsky District Court in Kazan (Казань) Tatarstan, Russia denied her lawyers’ request to transfer her to house arrest. Despite the closed-door deliberations, representativhttps://webmail.seemo.org/?_task=mail&_action=compose&_id=1447058478665f912b4fb32#responseses from the Australian and Czech Republic embassies and several journalists were allowed to observe other parts of the hearing.

Kurmasheva, who has been unable to see her children and husband, has expressed her deteriorating health and the need for surgery. During the hearing, she shared drawings from children who illustrated freedom, happiness, and joy, noting that these drawings might be the only greenery she sees this summer.

Kurmasheva, born 1976, was arrested in Kazan and charged under Russia’s foreign agent law, which is often used to suppress journalists and civil society activists. She also faces allegations of disseminating falsehoods about the Russian military, charges that could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted. Critics, including RFE/RL and the United States (U.S.) government, argue that these charges are reprisals for her journalistic work in Prague (Praha), Czech Republic. She was initially detained at Kazan airport on 2 June 2023, while trying to return to Prague after visiting her mother.

Kurmasheva’s plight has garnered international attention. In February, she was nominated for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano 2024 World Press Freedom Prize (https://www.unesco.org/en/prizes/cano), recognizing her significant contributions to press freedom despite facing persecution. She is one of four RFE/RL journalists currently imprisoned in Russia on charges linked to their work. The others include Andrey Kuznechyk (Андрэй Кузнечык), Ihar Losik (Ігар Лосік), and Vladyslav Yesypenko (Владислав Јесипенкo), all of whom have faced severe sentences following controversial trials.

As the international community continues to monitor Kurmasheva’s case, the extension of her detention underscores the ongoing challenges facing journalists in Russia and the perilous state of press freedom in the region.

You can read previous SEEMO article on this topic here: https://seemo.org/ressources/07-02-2024-the-ongoing-detention-of-alsu-kurmasheva-and-the-perilous-state-of-press-freedom-in-russia/

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the extended pretrial detention of journalist Alsu Kurmasheva. This action is a clear violation of press freedom, a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. SEEMO stand in solidarity with Kurmasheva and all journalists who face persecution for their work. We call on the Russian authorities to respect the principles of free speech and fair trial, and to ensure the safety and well-being of Kurmasheva. SEEMO urges the international community to continue monitoring this case closely and to join us in advocating for press freedom in the region.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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