The degree of media freedom in Russia varies from the large state TV stations that relay the government’s messages and narratives to smaller newspapers, radio stations and online media that do make space for criticism, but find themselves under economic, political and administrative pressure.
In and around Chechnya in Russia’s Caucasus region, independent media and dissent are frequently targeted by the local government of Ramzan Kadyrov. In a recent case, the independent online outlet Kavzkazskiy Uzel (“The Caucasian Knot”), its editor in chief and his colleagues were attacked by Chechen leaders, both physically and via threats made in social media. A number of international reactions followed, and the EU expressed its concern during a meeting between Grigory Shvedov, the outlet’s chief editor and the main target of the harassment campaign, and Head of the EU Delegation to Russia, Vygaudas Usackas.
6/1 The Speaker of Chechnya’s Parliament, Magomed Daudov, publishes a post on Instagram in which he speaks about a dog called “Swede” (a reference to Kavkazsky Uzel’s editor Shvedov’s last name), a “cowardly” animal which should have “a couple of his teeth torn out and his tongue shortened”.
8/1 Chechnya President Kadyrov’s spokesperson does not find Daudov’s words threatening: “Daudov never wrote that it was Shvedov who ought to have his teeth torn out. In my personal opinion, Shvedov really wants it to be about him. Daudov speaks about a dog. Is Shvedov a dog or what?”
9/1 Amnesty International launches an international campaign of solidarity with Shvedov, calling on Russian authorities to “immediately carry out an effective and impartial investigation into the threats against Shvedov”.
9/1 The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, warns of media freedom issues.10/1 Vladislav Ryazantsev, a journalist at Kavkazskiy Uzel, is attacked (http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/38127/) in Rostov-na-Donu, a Russian city 600 kilometres from Chechnya. The incident occurs on the square in the city centre, not far from the Rostov region government building.
10/1 A statement of solidarity with Shvedov and in defense of freedom of speech in the Chechen Republic is published and signed by more than 150 friends, colleagues, human rights activists, members of the civil society. In the statement, they say that the systematic disregard for threats and abuses by the Chechen leadership perpetuates impunity, call for a prompt and effective investigation into the threats against Shvedov, and press for resolute measures to provide a safe environment for journalists and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus.
11/1 The Ombudsman for Human Rights in Chechnya publishes a statement, qualifying Shvedov’s lawsuit as an act of self-promotion.
13/1 Human Right Watch calls on the Russian authorities to publicly condemn the threats, to ensure that no harm comes to Shvedov, and put an end to threats against and attacks on independent media in Chechnya.
17/1 The Head of the EU Delegation to Russia, Vygaudas Usackas, receives Kavkazskiy Uzel chief editor at the EU Delegation, states in a tweet that “the EU continues to support human rights and free speech”.