Journalist Kulamet Ibraimov was recently sentenced to five days in jail after being arrested alongside journalist Lutfiye Zudiyeva (pictured), who was later released. (Photo: Anton Naumlyuk)

Russian authorities in Crimea detain 2 journalists; Kulamet Ibraimov remains in custody

New York, July 27, 2023—Authorities in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea must drop all charges against journalists Lutfiye Zudiyeva and Kulamet Ibraimov, release Ibraimov immediately, and stop prosecuting members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Thursday, July 27, police in the Crimean capital of Simferopol detained both journalists while they were preparing to cover an appeal by three Crimean Tatar activists at the Crimean Supreme Court.

The journalists work with the human rights group Crimean Solidarity. Zudiyeva is also a correspondent for the Ukrainian media project Graty and Ibraimov is a correspondent for independent Russian news website Grani, according to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, reports by Graty and Crimean Solidarity, and Graty editor Anton Naumlyuk, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

After a brief trial, a Simferopol court ordered Ibraimov to be detained for five days on charges of repeatedly participating in an illegal protest, Naumlyuk told CPJ.

The same court fined Zudiyeva 12,000 rubles (US$132) and charged her with participating in an illegal protest “with the purpose of subsequently giving information in the media,” according to that report by Graty. Zudiyeva, who plans to appeal the fine, was released late Thursday evening after spending almost 13 hours in detention, she told CPJ via messaging app.

“Russian authorities in the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea continue to harass journalists trying to shed light on the area’s alarming human rights situation. Their reporting is of crucial public interest and should not be hindered,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately release Kulamet Ibraimov, refrain from contesting Lutfiye Zudiyeva’s appeal, and let members of the press work freely.”

Zudiyeva and Ibraimov showed their press cards to police before their detention, and Zudiyeva told officers that she was on an editorial assignment, those reports said. Police also detained 12 other people who attempted to attend the public hearing and took them to the Zheleznodorozhnyy District Police Department, and attempted to force Zudiyeva to submit fingerprints and saliva samples, which she refused.

Zudiyeva has covered trials and human rights issues in Crimea for Graty since 2019, and Ibraimov has also covered the trials of human rights activists.

Crimean Solidarity is a support group that helps Crimean political prisoners by publicizing their prosecution and advocating for their release, as CPJ has documented. Since Russian authorities cracked down on independent media in Crimea after its annexation in 2014, many reporters have engaged in “civic journalism,” particularly focused on human rights issues affecting Crimean Tatars, according to media reports and CPJ’s research.

In August 2022, Russian authorities in Crimea detained Vilen Temeryanov, a correspondent for Grani and Crimean Solidarity. Russia held Temeryanov and at least six other Ukrainian journalists, including two others in Crimea, at the time of CPJ’s 2022 prison census.

CPJ called the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Crimea for comment, but the call did not connect. CPJ emailed the Zheleznodorozhnyy District Court in Simferopol, but did not immediately receive any reply.