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AEJ joins plea for Russian colleagues

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(wm/ es) London and Vienna, March 20, 2024

The AEJ today joined nine other European press organisations in sending a strongly-worded letter to the Czech prime minister Petr Fiala and other senior figures in his government. We are especially concerned about the exiled Russian journalist Irina Dolinina, who now lives in Prague. Irina spoke at the launch of the Council of Europe Platform partners’ annual assessment of media freedom in Europe in Thessaloniki on March 5 in Thessaloniki.

Letter signed March 20, 2024

To: Pavel Blažek, Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic
Vít Rakušan, Minister of Interior of the Czech Republic
Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director EUROPOL
Vera Jourova, Vice-President, European Commission

Irina Dolinina – in exile in Prague

Dear Prime Minister Fiala,
On behalf of the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and
safety of journalists, we are writing to express our deep concern with regard to the
security threats faced by Russian exiled journalists based in the Czech Republic, and
to call upon your help to guarantee their safety. Across Europe, exiled journalists, most
of whom have been forced to flee brutal regimes, are extremely exposed, and without
greater support from the authorities face a grave risk of serious harm.

We are particularly concerned about the fate of exiled Russian journalists and the ease
with which suspected Russian agents are able to locate, follow and intimidate them.
Some have already been poisoned while traveling through Europe, including Prague.

Since the killing of Alexei Navalny, governments must treat all threats and acts of
intimidation against exiled Russian journalists with the greatest seriousness and
redouble efforts to ensure their safety.The partner organizations of the platform met in Thessaloniki for the launch of our annual report where we met with Irina Dolinina, a journalist for the Russian investigative media iStories, forced into exile at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Irina Dolinina and her colleague Alesya Marakhovskaya, moved to Prague from where
they have continued their work informing the world of the atrocities of the war and the
operations of the Russian state.However, since their arrival they have been subjected
to a continuous wave of death threats from suspected Russian agents who know where
they live, are able to freely stalk them through the streets of Prague and are even able
to track their flight bookings across Europe.

On September 21 the Council of Europe Platform members issued this alert to which the Czech government responded, assuring us of its commitment to the safety of
journalists, and of the measures that the Czech police had taken to investigate the
matter.

The response concluded with: “The Prague Police investigated the case,
however the case was closed because it was not possible to find out the facts that
would justify the initiation of criminal proceedings against a specific person.”

Petr Fiala, Cyech prime minister

While we are grateful for your government’s attention to their case we do not believe the gravity of their plight has been fully understood. The police must take seriously the very credible threat posed to the journalists, as well as the consequences of having Russian agents free to roam the streets of Prague stalking and threatening journalists who were forced to flee the country for their safety.

Moreover, the ease with which the agents are able to access flight data in the EU is
concerning for the overall integrity of Europe’s information systems as well as the
security of journalists and other actors whose lives are threatened by state actors.

We therefore ask your government to reopen the investigation of the case, to provide
enhanced security measures to the journalists, to identify and take action against the
perpetrators, and to work with European partners and Europol to improve the security of
personal travel information.

Irina and Alesya are being targeted for their fearless reporting and readiness to put their
lives on the line to expose the corruption and abuse of power within the Russian state.
We all owe it to them and to their colleagues facing similar threats in other countries to
provide their unconditional support and to guarantee their safety.

· Harrowing Accounts of Ukrainians Detained, Questioned, and Tortured by
Russian Troops near Kyiv
· Love, Offshores, and Administrative Resources: How Marrying Putin’s Daughter Gave
Kirill Shamalov a World of Opportunity
· The Troika Laundromat

Respectfully,
Platform Partners
Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Index on Censorship
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
PEN International
Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

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