Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for the leader of Russia's Republic of Chuvashia in the Volga region to be tried for inciting violence when he said journalists who constantly criticize the government should be "wiped out."
Speaking on January 18, which marked Press Day in Russia, Mikhail Ignatyev urged journalists to "wipe out" colleagues who "criticize from morning to night." The word he used for “wipe out" was "mochit" -- a Russian underworld slang term.
Ignatyev accused critical journalists of causing "street protests," among other things.
Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on January 21 that "nothing can justify such violence from a politician."
OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir also denounced Ignatyev’s “dangerous statement,” saying: “Such a declaration from a public official is unacceptable and may endanger journalists’ safety.”
Cavelier called for Ignatyev to resign for violating Chuvashia’s constitution, which says its president must “protect the citizen’s freedom and human rights.”
He should also be put on trial for “inciting hatred against a social group” under Russia’s penal code, she said.
Following an outcry over his comments, Ignatyev issued a “partial apology” that had “the sole aim of reinforcing his criticism of outspoken journalists," according to Cavelier.
Chuvashia’s head on January 20 apologized "as a kind-hearted person" to those he might have "upset" by his use of the term “wipe out."
He added that he was referring to "people who claim to be journalists but have just one aim -- to discredit the authorities by all means possible."
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.