News of the Day: 19 July 2021

The Guardian: A rights group in Russia has announced it is shutting down, citing fears its members and supporters may be prosecuted after authorities blocked its website for allegedly publishing content from an “undesirable” organisation. Team 29 – an association of lawyers and journalists specialising in treason and espionage cases and freedom of information issues – said on Sunday that Russian authorities accused it of spreading content from a Czech non-governmental organisation that had been declared “undesirable” in Russia. The group’s website was blocked on Friday, even though it rejected the accusations, and its lawyers said they believed the government’s next step could be to prosecute members and supporters.

RFE/RL: A court in the Urals city of Kirov has fined three Jehovah’s Witnesses on charges of organizing and financing the religious group that Russia labeled as extremist and banned in 2017. The Lenin district court on July 19 ordered Andrei Shchepin, Aleksandr Shamov, and Yevgeny Udintsev to pay fines of between 200,000 rubles and 500,000 rubles ($2,700-$6,750). Although the defendants pleaded not guilty, their relatives and supporters met the pronouncement of the verdicts and sentences with applause as in many cases the religious group’s members have been handed lengthy prison terms in Russia in recent years.

RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned for the future of investigative journalism in Russia now that the authorities have begun using a new weapon against media outlets – adding them to the list of “undesirable organisations.” The leading investigative news website Proekt had to suspend operations immediately when it became the first media outlet to suffer this fate on 15 July. RSF urges the authorities to remove it from the list.

Human Rights Watch: On July 18, Team 29, a leading association of Russian human rights lawyers, announced it was shutting down because its members, clients, and supporters faced imminent risk of prosecution. Several days earlier, the state media and communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, blocked the group’s website on orders of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Team 29’s said the prosecutor’s office had falsely equated their group with a Czech freedom of information organization, Společnost Svobody Informace, recently banned in Russia as “undesirable.”   

Leave a Reply