Do Not Let Crimean Tatar ATR and Media be Silenced!
The world’s only Crimean Tatar television channel ATR and other Crimean Tatar media could be silenced within days. The overt attempt to crush ATR has been aptly described as “shooting the soul of the Crimean Tatar people”, however Russia’s success in destroying these media will provide a very dangerous message and have serious repercussions beyond any particular group in Crimea. The list of media that Russia’s regulatory body Roskomnadzor is not re-registering makes it clear that one aim is to cut off vital sources of information about what is happening in Crime and failure by western countries to do more than express ‘deep concern’ is inexcusable.
The likely closure of these media comes at a time when Russia is not even attempting to conceal its militarization of Crimea. On Friday Sergei Aksyonov, installed as leader after Russian soldiers seized control on Feb 27, 2014, announced that they would support any decision by the Russian authorities to deploy nuclear weapons on the Russian-annexed peninsula.
Small wonder that Russia and its puppets in Crimea should be openly intimidating and persecuting Crimean Tatars and other Crimeans opposing Russian occupation. The silencing of channels which have regularly reported rights violations will serve as another step in crushing opposition and ensuring that protest is not heard.
Demonstrations are taking place on March 28 on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] in Kyiv and in some other countries in support of ATR and other media under threat. These include the children’s Crimean Tatar TV channel ‘Lyalya’ and radio station Meidan FM, as well as the Internet site 15 mins; the official newspaper of the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly ‘Avdet’; the children’s educational journal Armanchyk, and QHA – the Crimean News Agency or «Kırım haber ajansı»). ATR has been holding a marathon under the title “Don’t destroy ATR” since Wednesday, with this planned to go on until they receive registration or March 31.
Only QHA has had its application for re-registration under Russian legislation rejected. Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor has consistently come up with pretexts for returning the other applications without consideration, and the deadline is April 1.
‘Avdet’ has also not received a formal rejection, but it has twice had applications returned without consideration. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Chief Editor has twice run up against accusations of circulating ‘extremist material’ and has been issued with one formal warning (a second within 6 months gives grounds for closing the publication down). The words deemed ‘extremist’ appear to have included ‘annexation’ and ‘occupation’. Avdet was also driven out of their offices as part of the offensive against the Mejlis back in September 2014.
In an interview given to the Russian agency RIA Novosti, Aksyonov stated that “inciting enmity between various ethnic groups in Crimea in the present difficult time is unacceptable, therefore all those who one way or another act in this manner, including media, will not be able to work in the republic. “ Aksyonov specifically mentioned ATR saying that “the management of the channel has been told that (it is unacceptable) to escalate the situation and arouse a feeling of tension among the population, linked with the fact that the channel gives hope of Crimea’s return to Ukraine, inciting other people to action, and speaks of how later those who received Russian passports will be dealt with. The work of such channels at the present semi-war time is unacceptable”, Aksyonov said.
Earlier, on Feb 13 Aksyonov stated that ‘hostile’ media who talk of a return to Ukrainian control, etc. have no place in annexed Crimea.
“And of course, media that stir up hysteria and give some citizens hope that Crimea will return to Ukraine, thus carrying out destructive activities – the actions of such channels and their work will definitely not be welcome on the territory of the republic. What do we need hostile media for - who stir up the population and untruthfully cover the situation?”
ATR and the Crimean Tatar have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure that the channel is not driven out of Crimea. Putin’s own Human Rights Council has reiterated this appeal, however the President has proven deaf to the same Council’s advice, including its call to release Nadiya Savchenko.
Ukraine has promised that ATR will be able to broadcast from mainland Ukraine, but its audience would almost certainly be reduced.
Its audience could also be cynically duped. ATR General Director Lilya Budzhurova has warned of the likelihood that a fake ATR will begin broadcasting from April 1 if they are cut off.
She stresses that the closure of ATR would be a tragedy for the Crimean Tatar people. “Do not shoot the soul of an entire people. Do not destroy ATR!”