Conviction of Journalist Vladislav Yesipenko Threatens Media Freedom in Crimea
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence.
Vladislav Yesipenko, a freelance journalist, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian District court in the Crimean Simferopol district on the 16th of February 2022. Mr. Yesipenko was arrested in March 2021 and convicted for the possession of explosives. Vladislav Yesipenko communicated to his lawyer that he had been subjected to torture when detained in the pre-trial detention centre at Simferopol and “detained incommunicado”. Moreover, Mr. Yesipenko’s lawyer reported that his client’s fair trial rights had not been respected. The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, stated that Mr Yesipenko’s conviction “defies credibility and raises serious concerns that it is connected to his legitimate journalistic work”. This casts doubt on the credibility of the trial and whether the public authorities in Crimea are trying to restrict freedom of speech.
Vladislav Yesipenko’s conviction follows a well-established pattern regarding journalists’ freedom of speech and media independence in Crimea following its annexation from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. Other journalists have also been unfairly convicted such as Mykola Semena and Taras Ibragimov in 2020. According to Dunja Mijatović, the situation for independent journalists and the media in Crimea is dire with:
“independent journalism being curbed through arrests, criminal prosecutions, entry bans, surveillance, searches, confiscation of equipment, censorship, harassment, and intimidation”.
Mr. Yesipenko intends to appeal the District court’s conviction but his situation demonstrates the lack of respect for freedom of speech and the media that currently exists in annexed Crimea. This case comes at a time where the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia has reached its peak with international tensions rising.
Sources and further reading:
Dunja Mijatović Commissioner for Human Rights. (2022, February 17). Criminal Conviction of Independent Journalist Vladislav Yesipenko Further Undermines Media Freedom in Crimea. Council of Europe Newsroom. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/criminal-conviction-of-independent-journalist-vladislav-yesipenko-further-undermines-media-freedom-in-crime
European Federation of Journalists. (2022, February 16). Russian Court in Crimea Hands Journalist Vladislav Yesypenko Six Years in Prison. IFEX. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://ifex.org/russian-court-in-crimea-hands-journalist-vladislav-yesypenko-six-years-in-prison/
The Moscow Times. (2022, February 17). Crimean Court Sentences Journalist to 6 Years in Prison. The Moscow Times. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/02/17/crimean-court-sentences-journalist-to-6-years-in-prison-a76416