Ukrainian Journalist Mykola Semena Faces New Phase of Trial


NEW YORK—As Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena faces the next phase of his trial for charges stemming from his criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, PEN America calls for all charges against him to be dropped immediately.

Semena, a contributor to Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities), a local service of the U.S.-government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was arrested on April 19, 2016, in Crimea and charged with acting against the "territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.’’ The allegation is based on an article Semena wrote that was critical of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. However, he has rejected the charges.

"The Russian government is preparing new acts of political retaliation against those who dare to criticize Russian actions on the Crimean Peninsula," Civic Solidarity Platform, a coalition of 27 human rights groups, said in a statement, pointing to Semena’s case as an example of this campaign by the Putin regime.

Semena’s lawyers and the International and European Federation of Journalists, as well as the office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, joined the call for Russia to immediately release Semena and let him leave the peninsula for much-needed medical treatment. He is currently under house arrest and remains under a travel ban imposed shortly after his arrest.

"Independent journalism is an essential part of democratic society, and this persecution is unacceptable," said PEN America’s Free Expression Programs Coordinator for Eurasia Polina Kovaleva.

The case is part of a broader Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea, and more broadly on free expression in the region. In May 2014, filmmaker and activist Oleg Sentsov was arrested by Russian security services and later sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. Earlier this week, PEN America announced that it will honor Sentsov with the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at its annual Literary Gala in New York.

March 31, 2017
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