Journalist forced to flee Siberian hometown after years of harassment
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Russian federal authorities to protect the editor of a local online newspaper in Kiselyovsk, her hometown in southwestern Siberia’s Kemerovo region, after threats and attacks forced her to flee. The attacks are unacceptable and must be investigated, RSF says.
Novosti Kiselyovska editor Natalya Zubkova finally decided to flee the town after being attacked by an unidentified person while walking her dog on 25 February. After holding her head in the snow, her assailant threatened her and her daughters with reprisals if “you open your mouth one more time.”
The harassment to which Zubkova has been subjected for years in connection with her journalism included being prosecuted by the town’s mayor in August 2019 on the grounds that she was interviewing the region’s residents without the local government’s permission.
On 6 March, she released a video entitled, “To the security authorities in Kiselyovsk: stop persecuting my family!” In the video, she described how she had submitted many complaints to the police, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Investigative Committee about threats and acts of defamation against her without ever getting a proper response.
“Natalya Zubkova is being persecuted by the local authorities, who are exploiting local impunity to try to silence her,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We call on the federal authorities to protect this journalist and to conduct a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these unacceptable attacks.”
Zubkova is one of the many journalists in Russia who are harassed because of articles questioning local authorities. Irina Slavina, the editor of the Koza Press local online newspaper in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, took her own life by setting herself on fire outside city police headquarters in October 2020 after the latest of many searches and interrogations.
An hour before doing this, Slavina posted a message on Facebook calling for “the Russian Federation to be held responsible for my death.” On 2 November, the Investigative Committee refused to consider the harassment to which she was subjected as a factor in her suicide and to open criminal proceedings.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.