RUSSIA, October 06, 2014 - Amnesty International is launching a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country. Under slogans of “Speak out for freedom!” and “Speak out for Russia!”, activists in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, UK, Ukraine and Russia itself will demonstrate through actions, flash mobs, letters and petitions against the ongoing clampdown on basic freedoms of people in Russia.
“The right to protest peacefully; the right to speak freely on the Internet or in public; the right to disagree; the right to express who you are, all these are being smothered by the Russian authorities with the introduction of repressive legislation, smear campaigns and harassment,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.
To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on four main areas of concern:
• Independent media in Russia – journalists threatened, harassed, physically attacked and even murdered with impunity;
• Non-governmental organizations smeared, fined and forced to close down for independent and critical work spuriously presented as “political activities” in the interests of foreign sponsors;
• Protesters denied the right to express their views in public spaces; arrested and tried in unfair proceedings;
• The LGBTI community harassed by means of a homophobic law and denied freedom of expression.
The week of action coincides with the 8th anniversary of the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, one of the all-time staunchest critics of the Kremlin and once a prominent free voice of the Russian media. The police investigation into her killing has been marred by many shortcomings and, all these years later, failed to establish who ordered it.
In a bid to mobilise international solidarity with activists in Russia, Amnesty International calls on media outlets across the world to publish a story highlighting the repression of media in Russia. Pages of these newspapers and magazines will be turned into flowers to be delivered on 7 October, the date of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, in front of the office of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper she worked for in Moscow.
“The failure to find those who instigated Anna’s murder is indicative of the climate of impunity in Russia and Anna’s case has become emblematic for repression meted on civil society in the country,” said John Dalhuisen.
“Yet despite the dangers, many people in Russia continue to speak out, sometimes risking their lives and livelihoods. With this action we will remember her courage and celebrate the bravery for those who continue to fight against oppression and speak against injustice.”
Other campaign actions throughout the week in different countries across Europe include:
• Producing a mosaic of images of individuals speaking out in solidarity with civil society in Russia;
• Mannequins protest – placard-holding mannequins highlighting the prohibition of peaceful street protest in Russia without express prior permission from the government;
• Social media actions such as #freedompostcard on Facebook calling for the release of an environmental activist.
“Assaults on the rights of gay people, independent NGOs, critical media and public protesters have been fuelled and ‘justified’ by increasingly aggressive propaganda intended to depict them as a threat to ’traditional values’ or a fifth column bent on undermining Russia’s stability and prosperity. Unless this rapid decline is halted, Russian society as a whole will, in the long run, be the loser,” said John Dalhuisen.
The week of action follows a visit to Moscow in early September by Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty. He met and expressed solidarity with representatives of independent non-government organizations, independent media and civil society activists.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago ushered in a new age for the people of eastern Europe, an age of free speech, association and assembly. In Russia, these freedoms are being lost again, fast. But there are free voices who refuse to be muzzled, and our solidarity action is a message of support for them,” said Salil Shetty.