May 14, 2018 – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has submitted a report about the grave decline in press freedom in Russia for today’s review by the UN Human Rights Council of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia.
The report submitted by RSF, which has consultative status with the UN, shows that the situation in Russia has declined steadily since it was last reviewed by the Human Rights Council in 2013 as part of the process known as the Universal Periodic Review.
Russia has implemented none of the undertakings it gave during the 2013 review. As a result, the level of press freedom in Russia has fallen to a level not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
“It is time to end the downward spiral of freedoms in Russia,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “This Universal Periodic Review must be used to press Russia to overhaul all laws that unduly restrict press freedom, stop harassing independent media and the Internet, immediately free imprisoned journalists and bloggers and end impunity for violence against journalists.”
The harassment of journalists has intensified in tandem with a growing atmosphere of hate and paranoia fuelled by the war in Ukraine and by Russia’s increasing isolation. The state-controlled national TV channels project a new patriotic, neo-conservative discourse deliberately infused with conspiracy theory. Independent media that continue remarkably to do their job are confined to an ever-narrower niche. As soon as they manage to reach a significant public, they are quickly curbed, as shown when the editors were fired at Lenta.ru and RBC, and cable TV operators dropped Dozhd TV. Chechnya and Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, have become media no-go zones where, with the Kremlin’s blessing, no pluralism survives.
As described in RSF’s submission, the many draconian laws adopted since 2012 have reduced the space for free speech, criminalized civil society, undermined the economic bases of independent media outlets and reined in the Internet. More and more people are being jailed for comments they post on online social networks or even just for “likes.” Regardless of the massive collateral damage, Moscow is persisting in its blocking of the encrypted messaging app Telegram.
According to RSF’s tally, at least seven journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Russia in connection with their reporting, more than at any time since 1991. They include the investigative reporter Alexander Sokolov, the Kaliningrad newspaper editor Igor Rudnikov and the Chechnya-based correspondent Zhalaudi Geriyev.
Those who physically attack or murder journalists almost always go unpunished. At least 34 media professionals have been killed in connection with their reporting in Russia since 2000. In most cases, the investigations drew a blank and the instigators were never identified. Recent cases include investigative reporter Nikolai Andrushchenko’s murder in April 2017 and an attack on a group of journalists and human rights defenders travelling together in Ingushetia in March 2016.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.