Press Freedom award laureates warn of deteriorating conditions for journalists
The Siberian newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny, and Yelena Kostyuchenko, journalist of Novaya Gazeta, were among the laureates of this year’s Press Freedom Award, issued by Fritt Ord and Zeit Stiftung. – The prize jury has come to an important and appropriate decision, drawing attention to the deteriorating conditions for freedom of speech and the difficult situation for journalists in today’s Russia, said Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Representatives of the newspaper Yelena Kostyuchenko visited the Norwegian Helsinki Committee today, discussing some of the main problems for journalists and human rights activists in Russia. The Russian Duma (Parliament) has during the last months adopted a comprehensive package of legislation that is limiting freedom of speech, assembly, and organisation. Recently, a law prohibing so-called “homosexual propaganda” was adopted by the Duma. – One of the concerns highlighted by the journalists was the rapid deterioration of respect for fundamental freedoms; Russia is transforming into an increasingly authoritarian state, said Engesland.
Yelena Kostyuchenko was nominated for the award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – She is a brave journalist and an outspoken defender of the rights of sexual minorities (LGBTI persons). She has been arrested and assaulted because of her work, but continues her efforts, said Engesland.
The journalists emphasized the importance of international pressure, and underlined that Norwegian authorities should express their concerns in clear language to their Russian counterparts.
– The meeting with the laureates was timely on a day when the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with Amnesty International Norway and Bellona, had a meeting with Espen Barth Eide, Norway's Foreign Minister, concluded Engesland. In the meeting we underlined that there is a need for creative an effective initiatives by Norwegian authorities, both in bilateral and multilateral settings, in order to address the increasingly difficult situation for Russian non-governmental organisations and independent media. This does not belong to Russia's internal matters, but should be of concern to all of us.