WAN and WEF protest Russian journalist's jailing

The alleged imprisonment of a Russian journalist in a psychiatric hospital after writing an article critical of psychiatric services has prompted protests to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum are concerned that the punishment of Larisa Arap echoes human rights abuses from the Soviet era when psychiatric hospitals were used as prisons to isolate and punish political prisoners and discredit their ideas.

According to reports, Arap, a journalist and member of the opposition United Civil Front, had been forcibly hospitalised in Murmansk psychiatric hospital following the publication of an article on the use of violence by medical staff in the treatment of patients at the city¹s psychiatric clinics.

In a joint letter to Putin, WAN and WEF called for an investigation into Arap’s incarceration and expressed their deep regret over his approval of new legislation that expands the definition of extremism to include public discussion of extremism.

In the letter, the groups said: ‘Ostensibly designed to fight extremism, we are seriously concerned that the new measures may be used to silence government critics and will have a chilling effect on press freedom.

“The vague language of the amendments makes them particularly open to abuse and would provide the authorities with yet another set of tools to silence critical news coverage in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections.”

In 2006, a Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who had been critical of Russian activities in Chechnya, was murdered in a ‘contract-like killing”, leading the NUJ to request an independent investigation into the harassments and mysterious deaths of Russian journalists.

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