Criminal case against journalist Mykola Semena is oppression of freedom of speech in Crimea – defenders


Criminal proceeding has been started against Crimean journalist Mykola Semena. He is accused of making appeals to violate Russia’s territorial integrity. In his articles the journalist has said Crimea is Ukraine. Semena requires medical treatment on continental Ukraine and has not been yet issued permission to leave the peninsula.

Kyiv, August 31, 2016. Today human rights activists in Crimea are forced to work in conditions of total persecution of the Crimean Tatars and journalists. “Crimea faces a huge problem concerning freedom of speech and its violations. The most striking case of the Russian authorities’ violation of freedom of speech, the right to freedom of expression and the journalist’s right is Mykola Semena’s criminal case. We expect that the criminal case will be sent to the Russian Crimean court in the coming months, October and November,” said Olexandr Popkov, lawyer of Mykola Semena, at a briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

According to the lawyer, Mykola Semena is accused of calling for the violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. “In fact, he is accused of expressing calls for the liberation of Crimea and its return to Ukraine in his article. […] We try to somehow make a defense. Mykola Semena abandoned any attempt to alleviate his condition and help the so-called investigation and admit his alleged guilt,” explained Mr. Popkov. Thus, the journalist does not want to give up his principles. The lawyer urged the journalist community to promote gathering of any information, evidence which may be useful in defending Mykola Semena. He also has serious health problems. Mr. Popkov said that the National Institute of Surgery of Ukraine had sent him a call for treatment and examination in Kyiv on July 19 this year. Lack of treatment can lead even to disability. The case investigator sent a request to admit Mykola Semena to treatment, but the response was not received. Currently, Institute of neurosurgery named after A.P. Romodanov  is ready to admit the journalist for free treatment. The lawyer emphasized that he came to Kyiv from Russia just for the purpose of gathering data necessary for the case and for meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and experts.

“There is no freedom of speech in Crimea. Now it is an information ghetto,” noted Emine Dzheppar, advisor to the Minister of information policy of Ukraine on Crimea. The journalists are facing a question: to leave the profession or work for the occupier, or to leave Crimea and work in conditions of deportation. “From May up to now we have recorded seven-eight violations or cases of oppressions of freedom of speech,” noted Emine Dzheppar. Among them are blocking the sites (Krym.Realiyi – “Crimea. Realities”); summoning Mykola Semena’s relatives for questioning; detaining Tatar journalist and blogger Zajir Kadyrov by the Russian FSB representatives in May this year. She also described the glaring fact that on July 12, the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring of Russia entered Ukrainian journalists Hanna Andrievska and Mykola Semena in the list of terrorists and extremists. We chose maximum publicity in Mykola Semena’s case coverage as a defense strategy.

Volodymyr Prytula, director of “RadioSvoboda” Crimea project “Krym.Realiyi,” emphasized that Mykola Semena has been persecuted because of performing his official duties. Mykola has been working in journalism for about 50 years. He is the author of “RadioSvoboda” and journalist of many Ukrainian periodicals. Volodymyr Prytula also expressed hope for broad support of Mykola Semena’s case from the international journalist community, civil society and human rights organizations.