Journalist at risk after receiving death threat
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 we issued already 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 here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/russia-prominent-investi…). 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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