Russian authorities move to shutter journalist union JMWU over Ukraine war content

CPJ (11.07.2022) – – In response to news reports that the Moscow prosecutor’s office has requested the closure of the independent Russian Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU) trade group, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for authorities to cease harassing the union and to let it work freely:

“Russian authorities’ shameless attempt to shutter the JMWU threatens to silence an organization whose fight for journalists’ rights and press freedom in Russia has been a thorn in authorities’ side,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities must immediately lift their suspension of the union’s activities, drop all the charges against it, and stop stifling critical voices in the country.”

Founded after a 2016 attack on local and foreign journalists in Russia’s North Caucasus, the JMWU has some 600 active members and defends labour rights, provides assistance to journalists, and supports press freedom in Russia.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13, according to those news reports, which said the union is accused of publishing “materials containing misleading information” about Russia’s war in Ukraine that were aimed at discrediting the use of the Russian armed forces. On July 4, the Moscow City Court ordered the union’s activities suspended pending a judgment in the case, according to JMWU board member Andrei Jvirblis, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

From May 16 to June 16, the Moscow prosecutor’s office conducted an inspection of the union for its compliance with trade association legislation, according to the JMWU and those news reports, which said the union had not been notified about the outcome of that inspection.

On February 24, the day of Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine,  the JMWU published a statement calling the war a “perfidious step” that would risk journalists’ lives and “lead to the death of many citizens of our countries and huge destruction.”