Law enforcement officers detain a man in Minsk, Belarus, on June 23, 2020. Authorities recently detained at least six journalists. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

Russian journalists attacked while covering vote that would keep Putin in power

The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.

Since June 21, Russian authorities have attacked, arrested, or harassed at least five journalists in the lead-up to Wednesday’s plebiscite on amendments to the country’s constitution. If the referendum passes, President Vladimir Putin would be able to stay in power through 2036. Early voting on the measure began on June 25.

Separately, in neighboring Belarus, at least six bloggers have recently been arrested. Speaking to parliament on June 26, Interior Minister Yuri Karaev claimed the bloggers were seeking a “revolution” in the run-up to the country’s presidential election on August 9. CPJ spoke to a journalist and a media advocate about covering Belarus’ elections and coronavirus.

In the Columbia Journalism Review, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon argued that the judge presiding over the case of Rappler editor Maria Ressa and journalist Reynaldo Santos, Jr., in the Philippines failed to take into account the public interest in determining the legal protections that should apply. On Monday, Ressa’s legal team, led by Amal Clooney, filed a motion for reconsideration. Read the full column here.

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Global press freedom updates

  • Iranian journalist Roohollah Zam was sentenced to death. Separately, reporter Majid Motalebzadeh, arrested on June 20, charged with cybercrimes
  • Photojournalist Christoff Griffith killed at crime scene in Barbados
  • Peter Sabo, a Slovak investigative reporter who has reported on the investigations into the 2018 assassination of journalist Ján Kuciak, receives pistol cartridge in mailbox
  • Bulgarian publisher Ivo Prokopiev acquitted. For background read our coverage here
  • Tajikistan parliament approves amendments imposing fines, detentions for ‘false news’ amid COVID-19 pandemic
  • CPJ condemns Ethiopian internet shutdown and Oromia Media Network raid in the wake of the killing of a popular musician
  • Journalists arrested, charged with ‘nuisance’ in Botswana
  • Tanzanian government revokes license of Tanzania Daima newspaper
  • Police occupy, close two TV stations in Somaliland
  • Turkish regulator censors Halk TV and TELE1 broadcasters for 5 days
  • Brazilian police open criminal investigation into journalist for slander and defamation
  • Venezuelan journalists charged under anti-hate law, held on house arrest
  • Honduras enacts penal code maintaining ‘crimes against honor’
  • Last remaining charge against Canadian reporter Justin Brake dismissed


As part of The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership, CPJ published a full-page ad in the newspaper this week calling for the release of Yemeni journalists Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri. The four were sentenced to death in April, and have spent over five years in detention on charges of spreading false news. 

CPJ conducted an Instagram Q&A with Kirstin McCudden, the managing editor of  the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, about the recent attacks on journalists covering the George Floyd protests in the U.S. Watch the full interview here.

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