For two and a half years of the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation the serious violations of freedom of speech and expression are observed, including cutoff Ukrainian media broadcasting; numerous groundless rejections in media registration; systematic searches and detentions of independent journalists as well as their criminal and administrative prosecution.
On April 19, 2016 the police has searched the house of the famous Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, the journalist was detained for interrogation on suspicion of extremism, article 280.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation [article 280.1, so-called ‘extremist’ article, was introduced after the annexation of Crimea as legislative method to prosecute anyone disloyal to Russia with maximum sanction of five years of imprisonment]. Mykola Semena is accused because of his articles critical to illegal actions of Russia in Crimea published ‘Crimea Realities’, radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty project.
Following interrogation Mykola Semena was released under pledge not to leave the penninsula. On April 29, 2016 the journalist was informed about the status of accused on the criminal case on extremism. On May 25 and 26 the wife and one of the sons of Semena were interrogated, putting in this way pressure on the whole family. Since July 7 the access of Mykola Semena to banking services was limited by the state agencies.
The persecution of Mykola Semena, one of the most famous and respectful Crimean journalists is the significant case demonstrating the absolute disrespect to freedom of speech and expression. Nowadays the criminal case of Mykola Semena is at the stage of pre-trial investigation; according to the lawyer the trial will take place on October-November 2016.
Due to the age of Mykola Semena (66) and his health, the persecution has caused exacerbation of complex and chronic diseases. Based on the results of medical examination, the Neurosurgeon Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine concluded the necessity of urgent surgery and course of medical treatment, as there is danger of disability. Mykola and his lawyer officially requested the police investigator to allow travel to the mainland of Ukraine for the medical treatment, but there is still no positive decision.
On behalf of civil society, we kindly request the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to keep monitoring and reacting to freedom of speech violations and persecution of journalists in the occupied penninsula. Based on above-mentioned, we pay your attention to the case of Mykola Semena and ask you to promote with any means available and to put pressure on the Russian Federation:
Maria Tomak, Media initiative for Human Rughts
Daria Svirydova, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Tamila Tasheva, CrimeaSOS
Tetiana Pechonchik, Human Rights Information Center
Olexandra Matviychuk, Center for Civil Liberties, EuromaindanSOS
Hennadii Afanasiev, former political prisoner, activist
Editorial board of the newspaper "Den"