European Federation of Journalists

Russia: EFJ and IFJ condemn suspension and demand for liquidation of independent Russian trade union JMWU

Picture credit: JMWU.

The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) have condemned moves by the Russian authorities to shut down the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU). The EFJ and IFJ urge the Russian authorities to drop the lawsuit against JMWU and to end their crackdown on independent journalists and media outlets in Russia.

On 5 July, the Moscow City Court notified JMWU that the Moscow prosecutor had filed a lawsuit to liquidate the journalists’ union. Pending judgment, the court decided on 4 July to order a suspension of the union’s activities. The preliminary hearing of the case is set for 13 July.

JMWU was notified on 13 May of the Moscow City Prosecutor’s decision of 11 May ordering a judicial investigation against the journalists’ trade union. The Moscow Deputy Prosecutor, Sergei Savenkov, demanded to be provided with numerous documents, including motions of the JMWU assemblies, minutes of the meetings of JMWU executive committee, details of the organisation’s accounts, as well as details of rallies, seminars, round tables, trainings and presentations, full information on publications in the media and on the Internet, texts of radio and TV speeches of the organisation’s representatives – all by 16 May.

In his letter of response, JMWU Co-Chair Igor Yasin, in view of the large volume of documents requested and the time limit of only one working day for their collection, asked for a “reasonable time” to comply with this request. In the days that followed, the union representatives repeatedly submitted additional documents to the prosecutor’s office.

On 26 May, the union’s representatives were summoned by the head of the prosecutor’s office in charge of supervising the implementation of laws on federal security, inter-ethnic relations and the fight against extremism and terrorism, Dmitry Stupkin, to “give explanations” about their activities.

JMWU co-chair, Sofia Rusova, was interviewed on 27 May by two prosecutors. The questions concerned both the activities of the union, the existence of regional branches and their number, the budget of the union and the regularity of payment of membership fees, as well as Rusova’s own personality and activities. Particular attention was paid to the JMWU website. No specific questions were asked about anti-war publications.

On 16 June, the official deadline for the judicial inspection expired, but JMWU was not informed of its results.

On 5 July, the Moscow City Court sent two documents to the union: a decision of 16 June in favour of the prosecutor’s request to dissolve the union, and a decision of 4 July on the introduction of preventive measures against the union in the form of a suspension of its activities.

The documents from the court also stated that an administrative procedure has been opened against JMWU “in connection with the publication on the organisation’s official website of false information on the course of the special military operation to protect the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, intended to discredit the use of Russian armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security”. This article provides for a fine of up to 200,000 roubles (3,100 EUR) for the organisation’s leaders and up to half a million roubles (7,700 EUR) for the organisation itself.

The court’s judgement concludes that “the activities of the trade union lead to a violation of human and civil rights and freedoms and harm public order, public security, society and the state”.

The JMWU representatives were not allowed to see the court files. A preliminary hearing on the liquidation of JMWU is scheduled for July 13, at 2 pm in the Moscow City Court.

IFJ President Dominique Pradalié said:“This unfair and arbitrary process, leading to decisions being taken without giving the union the effective right to submit documents and challenge any so-called evidence, is a sham. It is just one more dangerous step in the closing down of any voices that do not just repeat the government’s statements. We will continue to provide practical support to all those Russian journalists working to keep the truth alive from those who would seek to silence independent voices”.

“The legal proceedings launched to liquidate the Russian independent trade union JMWU have all the appearance of a political trial on a totally arbitrary basis,” said the EFJ President Maja Sever. “We strongly condemn this policy of widespread liquidation of all civil society organisations in Russia and in particular those organisations that defend the right of Russian citizens to freedom of expression and their right to access independent information. The perpetrators of this indiscriminate repression will be held accountable.”