Russia controls not only the territory of the Crimean peninsula it occupied in March 2014, but its media as well. Russian authorities resort to Stalinist methods of pressure on mass media, says Gayana Yuksel, member of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar representative organ which was outlawed by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea. According to her, journalists are persecuted and interfered with in every way, with “unsuitable” journalists being expelled from the Peninsula.
Although Russian-controlled media attempts to create an illusion of free journalism on the peninsula, saying there are dozens of media broadcasts in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian language, the Mejlis representatives call it a sham. The number of national media outlets has fallen, and the pressure on the media only increases.
According to Tetyana Pechonchyk, Chairman of the Legal Information Center for Human Rights, 460 cases of pressure on journalists, violations of freedom of speech and expression took place over the past three years. The Crimean Tatar outlets were among those who were systematically pressured. She noted that international organizations that deal with the freedom of speech say Crimea turned into one of the worst locations for reporters to work in worldwide in the three years after its occupation, with the situation being much worse than in Russia per se or Belarus. None of the crimes against journalists has been investigated, she claims.
List of people who exterminated freedom of speech in Crimea
The Ministry of information policy of Ukraine together with the Human Rights Coordination Center has formed a list of people responsible for the violation of freedom of speech and journalists’ rights in Crimea, suggesting personal sanctions against these people. It includes over 60 people – Russian and Crimean officials, officers in law enforcement and specialized institutions, members of the “Crimean Self-Defence” who attacked media representatives, heads of the press centers who compiled blacklists of journalists as well as other actors who engaged in journalist persecutions and instigation of a propaganda war against Ukraine.
The cases of violations included criminal prosecution of Crimean journalists, illegal detentions, arrests and searches, cases of physical violence, expropriation and destruction of equipment, seizing editorial offices and their property, refusal to register, re-register media outlets, illegal re-allocation of radio frequencies, blocking news resources on the internet, threats and intimidation of mass-media representatives, etc.
According to the Human Rights Information Centre, 10 persons bear the biggest brunt of responsibility for cracking down on the freedom of speech and expression of opinion in Crimea:
- Sergey Abisov, “Minister of internal affairs of Russia for the Republic of Crimea”
- Sergey Aksyonov, Chair of the “Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea”
- Aleksandr Zharov, Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor)
- Vladimir Konstantinov, Chair of the “State Council of the Republic of Crimea”
- Mikhail Nazarov, Chief of the Main Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the “Republic of Crimea”
- Viktor Palagin, Chief of the “FSB Department for the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol”
- Natalia Poklonskaya, “Member of Parliament” at the State Duma of the Russian Federation, ex-“prosecutor” of Crimea
- Dmitriy Polonskiy, “Minister of Internal Policy, Information and Telecommunications” of Crimea
- Sergey Turchanenko, former Chief of the Simferopol regiment of “Crimean Self-Defence”, head of budget-sponsored institution “Crimean Republican Headquarters of People’s Self-Defence—People’s Militia of the Republic of Crimea”
- Mikhail Sheremet, Former “Deputy Prime-Minister” of the Crimean government, “Member of Parliament” at the State Duma of the Russian Federation.