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MOSCOW -- Russia's Investigative Committee has launched investigations against civil rights activist Mark Galperin, accusing him of "multiple violation of the law on public gatherings."

Galperin's lawyer, Alla Frolova, told journalists on January 20 that her client was informed about the criminal case against him the same day, but rejected the services of the lawyer provided by the authorities and refused to answer any questions using the Constitution's 51st paragraph.

The Investigative Committee said earlier that it had launched a probe against another civil rights defender, Vladimir Ionov, also accusing him of "multiple violations of the law on public gatherings."

Galperin and Ionov were arrested on January 10 for holding up a "Je Suis Charlie" sign near the Kremlin walls, expressing solidarity with French cartoonists murdered by Islamist terrorists in Paris.

On January 15, the two activists were among 15 protesters detained at an unsanctioned rally in support of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

On January 16, a court in Moscow sentenced Galperin to 38 days in jail for both protests and fined Ionov 170,000 rubles ($2,600).

If found guilty the men may face up to five years in jail.

With reporting by ovdinfo.org

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says violence and threats against Afghanistan’s journalists by the government and security forces are on the rise.

In a fresh report issued on January 21, HRW said such attacks are putting at risk the gains in media freedom in Afghanistan since 2001.

The 48-page report documents harassment, intimidation, and attacks on journalists and the Afghan government’s failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

HRW said the failure to protect journalistic freedom has emboldened those determined to suppress criticism of the government, the security forces, and other powerful entities in Afghan society.

HRW said he Taliban insurgency has greatly contributed to the climate of fear by explicitly targeting journalists for reporting deemed unfavorable.

HRW called on Kabul to do more to end the violence and intimidation, and said the Taliban should end its attacks on civilian organizations, including the media.

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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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