Russian authorities revoked the visa and residence permit of Dutch journalist Tom Vennink. (de Volkskrant/Pauline Niks)

Russia expels Dutch newspaper correspondent Tom Vennink

Berlin, November 4, 2021–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Russian authorities today to reverse their decision to revoke Dutch journalist Tom Vennink’s visa and residence permit and allow him to continue his work in Russia.

On November 1, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs gave Vennink, Moscow correspondent for Dutch daily newspaper de Volkskrant, written notice that his residence permit and visa were revoked with immediate effect citing “administrative violations,” gave him three days to leave the country, and barred him from re-entering Russia until January 2025, according to his employer, a report by Reuters, and Vennink, who communicated with CPJ via email. Vennink said he left Russia on November 3.

“Russian authorities should allow Dutch correspondent Tom Vennink to return to Russia by immediately reinstating his visa and residence permit,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “ Vennink’s forced departure reeks of censorship and sends a disturbing message to international journalists based in Russia.”

According to de Volkskrant, Vennink–a correspondent in Moscow since 2015–had been trying to renew his press accreditation at the interior ministry, which he had previously done without issue, when Russian authorities told him in writing that they had revoked his visa and residence permit, citing two times the journalist had paid fines to authorities. Vennink paid the first fine after he failed in 2019 to register his home address in Moscow after returning from another municipality – a requirement of foreigners – the newspaper said; the second time, he paid a fine for failing to obtain permission from the governor of the northern province of Chukotka before visiting in 2020. Authorities did not explain why these incidents were grounds for expulsion, de Volksrant reported, and Vennink told Reuters he did not know why he or his newspaper were targeted. 

“The expulsion came as a surprise to me. Russian journalists face serious obstacles in their work, but as a foreign correspondent I was able to report relatively freely on Russia and the Russians for the past six years. The expulsion will make it harder to present a full and nuanced picture of Russia and will intimidate other correspondents,” Vennink told CPJ.

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Ben Knapen decried the decision as “not acceptable,” de Volkskrant reported.

CPJ called the Russian Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Interior but the calls did not connect. CPJ also asked for comment from Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova through her Facebook page but received no response.

In August, BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford was forced to leave Russia after authorities refused to renew her visa, as CPJ documented.