Saturday, October 25, 2014


Russia

Russian Media Take To Twitter To #SaveOurGuys

An image tweeted by the Russian Foreign Ministry
An image tweeted by the Russian Foreign Ministry
By Farangis Najibullah
Russia is taking the West's criticism of press restrictions -- and using new media to throw it right back.

After Ukraine detained two news correspondents working for the pro-Kremlin news outlet LifeNews on May 18, a new hashtag emerged on Twitter with the aim of securing their safe release.

#SaveOurGuys is trending, quickly garnering thousands of tweets and enticing members of the Twitterati to post images putting their support on full display.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has jumped on the digital bandwagon...

...as have fellow Russian media organizations such as RT.

If the approach has a familiar feel to it, there is a reason.
It was only last month that thousands of celebrities, correspondents, and a concerned mother in the White House joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to free Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists.

And long before that, a still-ongoing campaign calling for three Al-Jazeera correspondents detained in Egypt to be released went viral via the #FreeAJStaff hashtag and Facebook campaign.

There is no diminishing the seriousness of any journalist being detained, and the case of LifeNews correspondents Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko has prompted furious reactions from the Russian authorities, who often come under criticism for their treatment of the media.

Lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to "raise its voice in defense of the freedom of speech in Ukraine."

Senior lawmaker Aleksei Mitrofanov has told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that "journalists are entitled to work in any conditions and they are protected by laws."

And Western journalists who themselves have experienced what it is like to have been detained while covering the Ukraine crisis have weighed in.

Ukrainian officials have alleged that the LifeNews journalists were doing more than reporting on the unrest in eastern Ukraine, where they were detained -- saying they were caught carrying manned portable antiaircraft weapons.

The U.S. State Department condemned "the unlawful detention of journalists in any capacity" but said the weapons claim "raised some questions about these individuals and whether they were actually journalists."

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