Journalists at Risk for Writing about Torture and Fighting for Human Rights

A briefing organised by The Civic Solidarity Platform (sponsored by missions to the OSCE of Canada, the EU, and the US)

When: Friday, July 4, 2014, 12:00-13:30, during OSCE SHDM on freedom of expression

Where: Room 201, Hofburg Palace, Vienna


− Khadija Ismayil, a correspondent and a host of a daily show at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Baku. An award-winning Azerbaijani investigative journalist, Khadija has extensively written and spoken on human rights abuse and high-level corruption in her country for many years and has regularly covered protest actions. She is facing strong pressure from the authorities who have called her a “foreign agent”, opened criminal investigation against her, intruded in her privacy, and blackmailed her.

− Zoia Svetova, a well-known Russian journalist, a correspondent of an independent political weekly The New Times and a leading authority in the judicial system and prisons. Zoia has extensively written about the problems of torture in Russian prisons, police abuse, and politically motivated trials. She is a recipient of a number of awards, including National Award of the Union of Russian Journalists in 2003, Amnesty International award in 2003, “Free Press of the Eastern Europe” in 2009, and more. Zoia is a member of the Public Commission for the Oversight of Places of Detention.

− Iryna Khalip, a Belarusian journalist in the Minsk bureau of Novaya Gazeta. For her journalistic activities Iryna has been harassed, detained, and beaten by the Belarusian KGB and has received death threats. In March 2014 she published a book, “A Diary of a Prisoner”, describing her experience of incarceration in the KGB prison and that of other political prisoners who were tortured next door after brutal dispersal of protests on 19 December 2010. In 2009 she was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women's Media Foundation and in 2013 the "International writer of courage" PEN Prize.

− Oleksiy Matsuka, editor-in-chief of a popular news site Novosti Donbasa in Donetsk, Ukraine, and director of an NGO Donetsk Institute of Information. Oleksiy and his team have been targeted by close surveillance, threats and attacks as retaliation for their exposure of corruption and abuse of power. In 2011 his apartment was set on fire. Fortunately, Oleksiy was not at home. Pressure intensified during the current crisis in Ukraine which has been extensively covered by Novosti Donbasa. Oleksiy’s car was set on fire on 12 April and his photo with the words “Attention, traitor!” was circulated a few days later. In April 2014 Reporters without Borders included Oleksiy in the list “100 heroes of information”.


- Yuri Dzhibladze, the Civic Solidarity Platform 

- Ambassador Olof Ehrenkrona, senior advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic will take part in the briefing.

Journalists who write about torture and other human rights violations face high risk of reprisals for their work across the OSCE region. They are subjected to harassment by state and private actors, charged with defamation, arbitrarily detained, convicted in unfair trials, receive threats, are physically attacked and even murdered. Many states do not take adequate measures to protect journalists and investigate threats to and attacks against them. Often they deny the very existence of the problem and refuse to cooperate in OSCE to strengthen the existing commitments and agree on practical steps to implement them. The briefing will highlight two important human dimension issues which are a matter of strong concern for many NGOs and government delegations in OSCE – security of journalists and prevention of torture.