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Russia accuses Crimean Tatar channel of ‘extremism’

September 25, 2014

A Crimean Tatar television channel based on the peninsula under Russian control said on Wednesday it had received a letter from local officials accusing them of extremism and launching a full review of its activities.

The accusations against ATR, a popular privately owned channel that broadcasts in the language of the local minority as well as Russian, are a “very serious signal”, director Elzara Islyamova told AFP.

Russian authorities in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in March, have engaged in a crackdown against the Crimean Tatars, barring many community leaders from entering the peninsula and evicting the Tatars’ assembly, the Mejlis, from their building last week.

The letter to the channel from Crimea’s interior ministry, which was seen by AFP, states that the channel “contributes to forming anti-Russian public opinion and incites distrust of authorities among Crimean Tatars, which carries an indirect threat of extremist activities.”

The ministry demanded all ownership and registration documents for the channel and its property, a list of its staff and other information, according to the letter.

Islyamova called the allegations against the channel “very serious” and said they were unfounded.

“We are not inciting anything and are not engaged in extremist actions, we are only telling our viewers what is happening on the peninsula,” she said.

According to Russian law, conviction for extremist activities can lead to an organisation being shut down.

Most Crimean Tatars, a Muslim people who were deported under Stalin and only returned to the peninsula in the 1990s, have been opposed to Russian rule, and did not vote in the referendum organised in Crimea with the help of Russian troops.

ATR, founded nine years ago, is broadcast in and around Simferopol and is available on cable in the rest of Crimea.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.