Russia: Death threat targets journalist
Elena Milashina © Caucasian Knot
On 13 April, Chechnya’s Head Ramzan Kadyrov posted a video on Instagram. In it, he issued a death threat aimed at Russian journalist Elena Milashina. The threat followed the publication of her article about the spread of COVID-19 in Chechnya. She is in grave danger and Russian authorities must take urgent steps to ensure her safety.
The threat, aimed at Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina, came as a reaction to her article, published in Novaya Gazeta on 12 April, regarding the authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov accused Novaya Gazeta and its journalists of being “puppets of the West” and directly appealed to the Presidential administration and the Federal Security Service (FSB) “to stop those non-humans who are writing and provoking our people.” He further alluded that unless they do it, someone in Chechnya would have to commit a crime to silence the journalist.
Amnesty International is concerned that the Presidential Press Secretary dismissed those very real and serious threats as “nothing out of the ordinary” and a mere “emotional” reaction “which is understandable in such a (COVID-19 pandemic) situation.” Moreover, the Prosecutor General’s office ordered that Elena Milashina’s article must be removed from the Novaya Gazeta website.
This is not the first time that threats and attacks against human rights defenders and journalists in Russia are being neglected and even condoned by the authorities. This is a violation of Russia’s international human rights obligations to protect human rights defenders and journalists and to promote freedom of expression which leads to further impunity for these crimes.
Please send a message to the president.
- Express concern about the death threat posted on Instagram by the Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov on 13 April which targeted journalist Elena Milashina.
- Urge him to publicly condemn the threats against Elena Milashina, to take meaningful steps to ensure that this does not happen again, and to ensure that Elena Milashina is safe.
- Call on his government to uphold the right of journalists to investigate and report on the COVID-19 pandemic and the authorities’ response in Chechnya and or other Russian regions and to protect the right to freedom of expression and information.
Write to (there is no mail service to Russia during the pandemic)
President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Fax: 011 7 495 910 2134
Via website: http://en.letters.kremlin.ru/
Salutation: Dear President Putin
His Excellency Alexander Darchiev
Ambassador for the Russian Federation
285 Charlotte Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8L5
Fax: 613 236 6342
Phone: 613 235 4341 or 613 236 1413
On 12 April, Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published Elena Milashina’s article regarding the COVID-19 situation in Chechnya and the authorities’ response to it. The article, entitled “Death of corona virus is a lesser evil - When in Chechnya those who are infected are being equalled to terrorists, people have started to conceal their disease and die at home,” brought about an unprecedented response from the Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. He commented extensively on the article on his Telegram account and more alarmingly issued a video on Instagram in which he accused Novaya Gazeta and its journalists of being “puppets of the West” and directly appealed to the Russian government and the Federal Security Service (FSB) “to stop those non-humans who are writing and provoking our people.” He stated: “We’ve had enough! If you want us to commit a crime and become criminals, then tell us so! One of us will take the burden of this responsibility on himself and suffer the punishment (for it) prescribed by law. He will spend some time in jail but will (eventually) be free. Do not try to turn us into criminals, murderers…”.
This is not the first time Elena Milashina is being threatened for her work in Chechnya (see an Urgent Action issued in 2015 https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur46/1844/2015/en/). On 6 February 2020, she and lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked and beaten up by an mob in a hotel in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital (see www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/russia-prominent-investigative-journalist-and-lawyer-attacked-during-visit-to-chechnya/). The investigation into this attack is now stalled, CCTV recordings from the crime scene have reportedly been “lost” and no perpetrators have been brought to justice. Ramzan Kadyrov also referred to this attack in his recent video, dismissing it as a mere act of “street hooliganism... not a crime” and alleging that “there was not a single witness, not a shred of evidence.”
On April 15, the Prosecutor General’s office ordered that the Novaya Gazeta article by Elena Milashina about Chechnya and the authorities’ response to COVID-19 must be removed and it has been taken off the website. The Prosecutor General has not yet clarified its claims that the article contains “false information”.
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