Russia: Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games

More reasons to Boycott Sochi as a venue for the Winter Olympic games 2014 – Six Months Before Olympics Launch, Fresh Concerns about Intimidation

REPORT by Human Rights Watch: (Aug 07, 2013.)

sochibldgPreparations for the Sochi Games have been plagued with serious human rights abuses and other problems, many of which have only been brought to light through the efforts of activists and journalists. If the IOC is committed to these issues, it should ask the Russian authorities to immediately stop harassing activists, organizations, and journalists and investigate allegations of abuse.

Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  against abuse of migrant workers, the impact of the construction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has committed to follow up on cases of mistreatment of workers and other human rights abuses that are clearly related to the staging of the Olympic Games. Press freedom is guaranteed under the Olympic Charter, which has an entire section on “Media Coverage of the Olympic Games.” The IOC is obligated to take “all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media.” Other by-laws require that “media coverage of the Olympic Games shall not be impaired in any way….”

Starting in 2008, Human Rights Watch has documented the harassment and intimidation of activists, journalists, and others, regarding their actions and comments related to the Sochi Games.

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