Moscow PEN Centre: Statement about the attacks on Novaya gazeta and Elena Milashina

17 April 2020

Source: PEN Moscow

Moscow PEN Centre and the Free Word Association add their voices to the statement issued by the Union of Journalists and Media Workers.

Statement by the Union of Journalists concerning the attacks on Novaya gazeta and Elena Milashina  

The Union of Journalists and Media Workers expresses great concern and outrage at the threats directed against Elena Milashina and Novaya gazeta published on 13 April on the Instagram account of the leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, in relation to the publication of an article critical of the violation of human rights in the republic at a time when the authorities are combating the coronavirus.

Novaya gazeta and its journalists were also described as ‘enemies of the people’ and ‘foreign agents, distributing fake news, and causing harm to the country.’ At that time, the leadership of Chechnya had refused to conduct an investigation into the assault on Milashina in the reception hall of a Grozny hotel.

Threats against Malashina and Novaya gazeta have been made on a regular basis since the spring of 2017 when, after publications about the violation of the rights of LGBT people, the republic’s spiritual leaders called for reprisals against the journalists. This shocking fact called forth a very strong reaction on the part of the professional journalistic community throughout the world but did not receive an appropriate response from the authorities either in the Chechen republic or at the federal level.

On 15 April the Prosecutor General ordered Novaya gazeta to remove the article by Milashina that contained criticism of the Chechen leader from the newspaper’s website on the grounds that it was ‘unreliable.’ The journalist has been threatened with prosecution for ‘distributing fake news about the coronavirus.’

The Union of Journalists and Media Workers expresses solidarity with the newspaper and Elena Milashina and demands that the journalist should not be prosecuted.

We are in solidarity with our colleagues from the European Federation of Journalists that measures to protect citizens during the pandemic should not result in restrictions of freedom of expression or in the settling of scores with journalists.

We also demand that a thorough and independent investigation be conducted into the attack on Elena Milashina in Grozny and call for an objective assessment of the actions of the Chechen leadership with regard to the journalists of Novaya gazeta.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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