Sunday, November 23, 2014

News Website Editor Detained In Russia

RFE/RL's Russian Service

KHABAROVSK, Russia -- The editor in chief of an independent Russian news website says he has been detained at the airport in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk.

Oleg Potapenko of the online news portal told his colleagues by phone on November 12 that he and his partner had been detained while heading to Hong Kong.

Potapenko said police confiscated their mobile phones, laptops, and tablets, saying they might contain classified information.

Potapenko, who is openly gay, was held for four hours and interrogated by police at Khabarovsk's airport in July upon his return from a forum of nongovernmental organizations in Georgia.

At the time, Potapenko called the incident "psychological pressure.” has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian Army has been battling pro-Russian separatists.

Kazakh Inmates' Kin Concerned Over Armed Forces' Action

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

Authorities at a penal colony in Kazakhstan have refused to let inmates' relatives see their loved ones following reports that the armed forces put down a prison riot.

Anxious relatives had gathered near the OV-156/3 prison in the eastern city of Oskemen, demanding access to the inmates to assuage fears they had been subjected to violence by the troops.

Prison officials told RFE/RL that the armed forces had been used on November 10 to "conduct routine checks (and) confiscate banned items, such as mobile phones and blades."

Officials told the relatives that day that two inmates had been hospitalized after they maimed themselves to protest the presence of the armed forces.

Kazakh inmates have rioted several times in recent years to protest jail conditions, sometimes maiming themselves to draw attention to their plight.


OSCE Calls On Azerbaijan To Cease Repression Of Independent Media

Blogger Mehman Huseynov


The OSCE representative on freedom of the media has called on authorities in Azerbaijan to stop their crackdown on independent media and rights activists.
Dunja Mijatovic said in a November 10 statement, "Practically all independent media representatives and media NGOs have been purposefully persecuted under various, often unfounded and disturbing charges."

Mijatovic raised the case of Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov, who was detained at the Baku airport earlier in the day and denied permission to leave his country to attend an international media conference sponsored by the OSCE in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Mijatovic had invited Huseynov to the conference.

Mijatovic also noted that Khadija Ismailova, a journalist for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, could not attend the conference due to travel restrictions imposed on her.

The OSCE media freedom representative said, "I repeat my call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to end this hostile attitude against free media."

St. Petersburg Beauty Queen 'Shocked' By Racist Slurs

Viktoria Maladayeva (left), a 25-year-old married mother of one, drew hostile comments from online voters after referring to Putin as "the worst thing to happen with Russia since the 1950s."

RFE/RL's Russian Service

An ethnic Buryat woman crowned "Mrs. St. Petersburg" last week says she is surprised by racial taunts she endured after making critical comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Viktoria Maladayeva, a 25-year-old married mother of one, drew hostile comments from online voters after referring to Putin as "the worst thing to happen with Russia since the 1950s." 

Critics called Maladayeva a "Russophobe" and an "enemy of the people." One commenter said Maladayeva's hair should be shaved off and "her head put in the toilet." 

Maladayeva, a native of Russia's Buryatia region who has lived in St. Petersburg for the past nine years, said she had expected a "negative reaction" to her Asian features but said she was "shocked" by the degree of vitriol. 

"I'm horrified by the fact that there's such a poisonous attitude toward people just because they have different political views," she said, adding that Western sanctions and rising prices were among her main concerns. 

Blogger Not Allowed To Leave Azerbaijan, Questioned

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

A well-known Azerbaijani blogger has been questioned by police after being prohibited from leaving the country.

Mehman Huseynov of the Azerbaijani Institute Of Reporters' Liberty and Safety was detained at the Baku airport on November 10 while trying to travel to Tbilisi, Georgia, for an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference on media in the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijani Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said later that Huseynov was released after he was questioned in connection with investigations launched against him in 2012.

In 2012, Huseynov was barred from leaving Azerbaijan for three years after he was accused of resisting police and insulting a police officer.

Huseynov says the investigation has stalled since then and he had officially requested the travel ban be lifted, but the prosecutor-general's office has given no clear indication of his status.

Second Lawyer Barred From Defending Azerbaijan's Yunus

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

A second lawyer has been barred from defending jailed Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus.

Xalid Bagirov told RFE/RL that he was not allowed to meet with his client in a pretrial detention center in Baku on November 5.

He said he was told he had been barred from defending Yunus by Azerbaijan's the prosecutor-general, but no reason was given.

Last week, Yunus said that another lawyer, Cavad Cavadov, had been barred from representing her in court.

Yunus, 58, is a fierce critic of Azerbaijan's poor rights record.

She and her husband, Arif Yunus, 59, were arrested in July and August, respectively, and charged with high treason and other crimes.

The couple says the charges are politically motivated.

Western governments and human rights groups have called for the couple's immediate release.


Rights Activist To Fight Deportation From Belarus

Yelena Tonkachyova, head of the Lawtrend Legal Transformation Center, called the deportation hearing "a circus."

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

A rights advocate who has been ordered to leave Belarus described her deportation hearing as a circus and vowed to appeal.

A court in the Belarusian capital ruled on November 5 that Yelena Tonkachyova , a Russian citizen, must leave the country by December 5 and barred her from entering Belarus for three years.

Speaking to reporters in Minsk on November 6, Tonkachyova, head of the Lawtrend Legal Transformation Center, called the deportation hearing "a circus."

She said she would appeal the ruling.

Tonkachyova, who has lived in Belarus since 1985, was officially informed on October 30 that her residence permit had been annulled.

Authorities said the decision was based on her violation of a traffic regulation.

Lawtrend promotes freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right of access to information, justice, and a fair trial.



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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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