The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the threats targeted at prominent Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper by the leader of Russian Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.
During his daily broadcast on Instagram on April 13, Kadyrov issued a violent threat against Milashina, accused the Novaya Gazeta of spreading disinformation about the Chechen Republic and called on the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, to stop her and her fellow journalists.
Discussing Milashina, he said, “if you [the security services] want us to commit a crime and become criminals, then say so. Someone will take the burden of responsibility and will be punished under the law.”
The verbal attack came the day after Novaya Gazeta published an article by Milashina which criticized the measures being taken in Chechnya to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and questioned the preparedness of the republic’s hospitals.
“Stop these nonhumans who write and provoke my people”, Kadyrov said to his 1.3 million followers, before describing Novaya Gazeta journalists as “enemies of the people”.
During the earlier broadcast, posted on YouTube, Kadyrov also questioned whether a brutal beating of Milashina that happened in Grozny, the Chechen capital, earlier this year actually took place.
“They say the Novaya Gazeta journalist was beaten in Chechnya. But where is the witness? ….. I don’t believe it,” Kadyrov reportedly said.
As IPI documented at the time, on February 7, Milashina and her lawyer, Marina Dubrovina, were attacked by a group of men and women in the lobby of their hotel when they were in Grozny to attend the trial of a local blogger.
“We strongly condemn the latest threats against Elena Milashina and Novaya Gazeta for reporting on the government’s handling of the pandemic”, Oliver Money-Kyrle, IPI Head of Europe Advocacy and Programmes said.
He added: “Too many of Novaya Gazeta’s journalists have been killed or attacked, some for their reporting in Chechnya, for such verbal attacks not to be considered a direct threat to Milashina’s safety.”
In 2017 Milashina had to go into hiding following threats from Chechen authorities after she exposed the alleged arrest, torture and murder of gay men in the Chechen Republic.
Rather than stepping in to condemn the threats against the journalist, Russian authorities instead moved to censor her COVID-19 reporting.
On April 15, Novaya Gazeta received an order from the Russian media regulator, Roskomnadzor, to delete Milashina’s article from its website within 24 hours.
According to media reports, the newspaper was also referred to the Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office to discuss the report.
Prosecutors reportedly said the article included “inaccurate information” that posed a threat to public safety – without indicating exactly which part they meant.
- This statement was updated on April 16 to include information about the move to censor Novaya Gazeta