Russia: “Novaya Gazeta” journalists threatened by Chechen religious and public leaders


UPDATE (19.04.2017): Newspaper Novaya Gazeta received today an envelope containing an unidentified white powder. The envelope’s return address was “Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya, where preachers and political officials have recently threatened the newspaper for reporting on the alleged torture and detention of men suspected of homosexuality.

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The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) have joined their Russian affiliate, the Russian Union of Journalists (the RUJ), in expressing their concern over serious threats by religious and  public opinion leaders in Chechnya against journalists and media staff at Novaya Gazeta, the leading independent newspaper in Russia.

The threats followed an article published by the newspaper on 1 April, entitled Murder of Honourabout mass detentions, torture and extrajudicial reprisals of Chechen citizens for allegedly homosexual practices. The Novaya Gazeta’ article named three people who had been murdered and said many more people had been detained. It added that so called “Murder of Honour“, extrajudicial killings and executions are also committed by victims’ relatives.

During the emergency People’s Assembly which was held on 3 April in the central mosque of Grozny and was attended by 15,000 people in total, the representatives of religious and public organisations adopted a joint resolution which dismissed the publication of Novaya Gazeta as “an absolute lie and slander discrediting honour and dignity of Muslims, inhabitants of Chechnya, citizens of the Russian Federation“.

The resolution called the article resolution “an insult undermining the core foundations of the Chechen society and religion as well as dignity of Chechen men”, and warned that vengeance will reach the instigators no matter where and who they are, with no status of limitation .

Novaya Gazeta condemned the statement, saying it amount to as a direct threat and an appeal for physical violence against its journalists. In a statement, the newspaper denounced the declaration of Islamic theologians and public opinion leaders of Chechnya, saying it is “unacceptable in the civilised society and should be considered from the point of view of the Russian Law.”

Under Article 144§3 of the Russian penal code, any threats related to the use of violence against journalists and their relatives, including destruction or damage to their property, are considered as a crime and can be punished either by up to five years of correctional labour or up to six years of imprisonment with the ban to hold certain official positions or pursue certain activities.

“This crime must be punished,” said the Vice-President of the EFJ, Nadezda Azhgikhina. “I do hope that those responsible for these threats will be punished. The fact is that all tragedies, including killings, started with threats. Novaya Gazeta journalists know it very well. It is time to end practice of impunity.”

 Photo credit: RUJ