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Crimean Tatar Leader Says TV Station To Be Russian 'Propaganda Tool'

  • Merhat Sharipzhan

Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, calls the new broadcaster "another propaganda tool for the occupiers in Crimea."

Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, calls the new broadcaster "another propaganda tool for the occupiers in Crimea."

Russia will establish a Crimean Tatar broadcasting company to replace TV and radio stations shut down by the Moscow-controlled government this spring, but a senior leader of the annexed peninsula's Muslim ethnic minority dismissed the initiative as a bid to create a "propaganda tool."

In an order issued on June 9, the Moscow-backed government that controls Crimea said the Public Crimean Tatar Television and Radio Corporation (OKKT) must be registered by July 1.

It said the regional State Commission for Nationalities will help establish the new broadcaster and will supervise its activities.

The corporation's main goals were described as "production and distribution of television and radio programs providing thorough and multifaceted coverage of social, political, economic, and cultural activities of the Republic of Crimea...mainly in the Crimean Tatar language."

The Kremlin-backed head of the Crimean government, Sergei Aksyonov, told a cabinet session that the broadcaster will be funded by the federal government in Moscow, which he said has allocated 177 million rubles ($3.2 million) for the purpose.

"The issue of the public Crimean Tatar television is a major goal for the Ministry of Communication and Information," Aksyonov said.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, after deploying troops to secure key sites and staging a secession referendum dismissed by Kyiv, the United States, the European Union, and about 100 UN member states as illegitimate.

Rights groups and Western governments say Crimean Tatars, who largely opposed the annexation, have faced oppression, intimidation, and abuse since Russia's takeover.

The Russian authorities announced plans for a new TV and radio company shortly after the only independent television channel broadcasting in the Crimean Tatar language, ATR, was forced to shut down and stopped operating on April 1.

ATR's programs and those of its several affililiates went off the air after Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor rejected several attempts by the company to register under Russian law, citing various technicalities.

Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, told RFE/RL that the new broadcaster in the Crimean Tatar language will be "another propaganda tool for the occupiers in Crimea."

"What they are creating is a media outlet fully controlled by the illegal government of annexed Crimea," Chubarov said in a telephone interview.

"They have promised to set up a new -- what they have called -- 'public' television and radio corporation. However, the corporation will be fully controlled by their Committee for Nationalities. What can you expect from a state-controlled media outlet?"

The Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, was evicted from its premises in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, after a raid by the Russian authorities in September, and its members now meet on mainland Ukraine.

Chubarov has been barred from Russia, and the Russian authorities in Crimea recently said he is being investigated on suspicion of separatism.

On March 31, Amnesty International called the Crimean Tatar media outlets' de facto closure "a blatant attack on freedom of expression, dressed-up as an administrative procedure" and "a crude attempt to stifle independent media, gag dissenting voices, and intimidate the Crimean Tatar community."

With reporting by the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
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