Since occupying Crimea in March 2014, Russian authorities have singled out and persecuted Crimean Tatars — a native ethnic group of about 300,000. The latest in this disturbing pattern is the recent shutdown of 11 out of 12 Tatar-language media outlets operating in Crimea.

Media licenses denied

About a year ago, Russian occupation authorities gave all media outlets in Crimea until midnight on April 1, 2015, to apply for new Russian media licenses. ATR TV, established as the first channel dedicated to Crimean Tatars, had three of its applications rejected since October 2014, while its fourth application received no response. QHA, another well-established Crimean Tatar news agency, was twice refused re-registration and subsequently did not reapply.

Media outlets that did not receive a Russian license by the deadline face prosecution under Russian law and severe consequences, including huge fines, equipment confiscation and criminal charges.

Shutdowns condemned

Despite Crimeans’ and others’ condemnation of Russia’s unfair licensing decisions, several Tatar-language outlets have had to close. There are many calling on Russia to reinstate broadcasting rights for the closed media outlets:

  • In an April 2 statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. “condemns the failure by Russia to respect the human rights of those who remain in Crimea and its disregard for media freedom.”
  • The European Union said the people of Crimea “deserve unimpeded access to the plurality of media” and called for the “full respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all inhabitants of Crimea.”
  • Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, called the shutdown “a crude attempt to stifle independent media, gag dissenting voices and intimidate the Crimean Tatar community.”

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine.