A girl in a national Crimean Tatar dress holds a placard during a protest against the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, Bakhchysaray, Crimea, March 5, 2014 (Image: mfa.gov.ua)
“At the stroke of midnight” today, Denis Krosheyev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, says, “all but one Crimean Tatar language media outlets, which have come under a sustained assault since the Russian annexation, will fall silent.”
Despite the efforts all of them have made to register, the occupation authorities will now close down Crimean Tatar outlets in “a blatant attack on freedom of expression, dressed up as an administrative procedure … to stifle independent media, gag dissenting voices and intimidate the Crimean Tatar community.”
Following the Anschluss, Russian officials required all media outlets on the Ukrainian peninsula to re-register. Pro-Moscow Russian-language channels, news services and print publications have had very few problems, but Crimean Tatar outlets have been “repeatedly and arbitrarily denied registration,” Amnesty International says.
In the best Soviet-era tradition that Vladimir Putin’s regime is increasingly restoring, one Crimean Tatar outlet, the newspaper “Yeni Dunya,” will be allowed to continue so that pro-Moscow trolls and supporters of the occupation can point to it in order to deny that Moscow is conducting an ethnically-based purge of the Crimean Tatar media space.
But that is exactly what is going on. QHA, the largest Crimean Tatar news agency, has been refused re-registration twice and has not reapplied, Amnesty noted. ATR, the Crimean Tatar-language television channel, has been turned down three times. It has applied a fourth time, but if it doesn’t hear by tonight, it too will shut down lest it face heavy fines, the confiscation of its equipment, and criminal charges against its mangers.
Other Crimean Tatar-language outlets, including the Maidan radio, the 15minut.org website, the newspaper “Avdet,” and the magazine “Yildiz” have not received re-registration and will shut down. And in an indication of how sweeping this Russian purge is, the occupation authorities have refused to register the Crimean Tatar children’s magazine “Armanchikh” and the children’s television channel, “Lale.”
“The fact that children’s television channels and magazines are being forced to shut down may sound like a cruel April Fools’ Day joke, but this is certainly no laughing matter,” Krivosheev says. “Instead it heralds a latest stage in an ongoing clampdown on human rights … the brunt of which is being felt by the persecuted Crimean Tatar minority.”
And to add insult to this injury, the occupation authorities have taken the additional step of warning Crimean Tatar leaders not to protest these closures lest they run afoul of Russian “anti-extremism” law. As has become typical, the officials issued these warnings orally and refused to leave any documentation, undoubtedly so they can deny that they have in fact done so.