The United States strongly condemns the Russian occupation authorities’ shutdown of many major Crimean Tatar media outlets, including ATR TV, the last independent television station serving the Tatar population of Crimea, as well as QHA news agency, the newspaper Avdet, radio station Meydan FM, and several others.
ATR was the only television channel that broadcast in the language of the Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority that opposed Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula in March 2014. Prior to its closure, 60% of the channel’s content was in Russian, 35% in Crimean Tatar, and 5% in Ukrainian.
Although the official reason given for taking the channel off the air was mistakes in its registration paperwork, ATR’s director, Shevket Memetov, tied the forced closure to the channel’s occasionally critical coverage of life under Russian rule.ATR covered many of the problems that have arisen since Russia’s military intervention and purported annexation of Crimea, including interruptions of utilities and food supplies, huge lines at the ferry crossing to Russia, and the second-highest inflation rate in the world.
The closures of ATR and other independent media are the latest in a string of actions that undermine freedom of expression in Crimea. They follow a year-long campaign to silence the Crimean Tatar population and others who oppose Russia’s occupation. Tatars have been singled out and subjected to a pattern of discrimination, intimidation, and harassment, including raids on homes, political organizations, and places of worship.
Those in Crimea deserve better. The United States condemns the failure by Russia to respect the human rights of those who remain in Crimea and its disregard for media freedom, and calls for the immediate reinstatement of all the media outlets that were closed. Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine, and the United States continues to stand behind Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.