Russian authorities have recently detained Alsu Kurmasheva (Алсу Курмашева), an editor with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – Радио Свобода (RFE/RL) Tatar-Bashkir Service (https://www.rferl.org/). Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship and resides in Prague, Czech Republic found herself in a dire situation during a private trip to Russia. She entered Russia on 20 May 2023.
After a temporary detention at Kazan airport on 2 June 2023 her U.S. and Russian passports were confiscated. Reason is failure to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities, which resulted in a fine. This incident prevented her from leaving Russia, and since then she is waiting for the return of her passports. On 18 October 2023, her situation took a severe turn as she was detained again, this time on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent. This charge is significant, carrying a maximum prison sentence of five years. It is not helping her that she is residing in Prague with her family.
This alarming turn of events emphasizes the deteriorating press freedoms and the increasing hostility towards foreign journalists in Russia. Russia has overseen a tightening of controls on civil rights groups funded from abroad since 2012. This legislation was later extended to include media organizations, which forced journalists working in Russia to register as “foreign agents” and comply with burdensome bureaucratic requirements. This wave of repression has significantly hampered the ability of journalists to perform their professional duties freely.
Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be held by Russia. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage in March 2023.
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls for the immediate release of Alsu Kurmasheva and express strong condemnation of these acts as blatant violations of press freedom. It is crucial to safeguard journalists’ rights to work independently and without fear of prosecution. SEEMO strongly condemns an alarming escalation of press censorship in Russia and a direct threat to the principles of democracy and freedom of the press.
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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