Washington, D.C., March 7, 2022 – Governments around the world should allow independent Russian journalists fleeing prosecution to enter their countries and find safe haven, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On Saturday, March 5, authorities at Georgia’s Tbilisi International airport denied entry to Mikhail Fishman, a journalist for the now-shuttered independent Russian outlet Dozhd TV (also known as TV Rain), after he flew to the country to be with his family, according to news reports and Fishman, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
Georgian authorities did not offer any reason for the denial, and rerouted Fishman to another country, which he asked not to be named for security reasons, the journalist told CPJ. Two family members with whom he was traveling were allowed to enter Georgia, according to those sources.
“With independent journalists in Russia fleeing from an unprecedented number of threats, it is time for the international community to step up and offer them refuge,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Journalists like Mikhail Fishman have already been targeted by the Kremlin’s crackdown on the free press and should be able to find safety. We hope Georgian authorities will be welcoming those fleeing from persecution in Russia.”
Russian citizens do not need visas to travel to Georgia. Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs did not return CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
Fishman told CPJ that he had “one explanation” for why he was denied entry: “Because I am a well-known journalist in Russia. I have no doubt that this occurred because of my work.”
On March 3, Dozhd TV announced that it would suspend operations in Russia after authorities blocked its website for spreading “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel.”
The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted amendments to the country’s criminal code that would allow penalties ranging from fines to up to 15 years in prison for spreading information about military operations that state authorities deem false, or information that was discrediting to Russia’s armed forces, as CPJ documented.