VIENNA, 21 December 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today condemned Russia’s expulsion of a Polish journalist in retribution for Poland’s decision to expel a Russian journalist for as-yet unexplained allegations of espionage.
Russian authorities on Friday summoned Waclaw Radziwinowicz, the Moscow correspondent for Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, to the foreign ministry, where he was informed that his press accreditation had been withdrawn and that he must leave the country within 30 days.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told the Associated Press that the decision to expel Radziwinowicz was made “on the principle of reciprocity”, referring to Poland’s expulsion of Leonid Sviridov, a reporter with the Kremlin-funded Rossiya Segodnya news service.
Polish authorities last year labeled Sviridov a threat to the country’s security, but never released evidence supporting that claim. Sviridov, who denies having acted as a Russian agent, left Poland on Dec. 12.
“We are extremely disappointed by this development, which serves only to deprive the Polish public of independent information on Russian politics and government actions,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Given the heightened tensions between Russia and Poland in recent years, both nations should take greater steps to ensure more understanding of their actions and policies by their neighbors, not less.
“We urge Russian authorities to reverse the decision to expel Mr. Radziwinowicz. Likewise, we call on Polish authorities to provide specific evidence justifying their decision to expel Mr. Sviridov and, failing that, to reverse that decision as well.”
Reports indicated that the order expelling Radziwinowicz from Russia cannot be appealed and that he was told he could face criminal charges if he fails to obey it.
Gazeta Wyborcza Deputy Editor-in-Chief Piotr Stasinski, a former member of IPI’s Executive Board, said that Radziwinowicz has served as the paper’s Moscow correspondent for more than 18 years and that Russian authorities threatened to withdraw Radziwinowicz’s accreditation several times during that period.
Stasinski said the paper considered that pressure to be a response to Radziwinowicz’s critical coverage of Russian politics and creeping authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“This [expulsion] amounts to an absurd pretext to get rid of a critical journalist who was explaining Russian affairs to the Polish public without even a shade of self-censorship or the Kremlin’s official propaganda,” Stasinski commented. “The understanding and deconstructing of Putin’s Russia was a trade and mission of Waclaw Radziwinowicz; a trade and mission that he was deprived of by a regime that fears the truth about itself.”