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#WatchSochi

Global scrutiny of Russia’s record for free expression rights was highlighted during the IFEX #WatchSochi campaign. With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games drawing to a close, IFEX is now handing out medals for outstanding performance in defending free expression.

The freedom expression medal goes to…
The freedom expression medal goes to…

REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

Medals for Outstanding Performance in Defending Free Expression go to the IFEX members who produced special reports and resources relating to free expression in Russia around the Olympics. Joining them on the podium are the many international and Russian journalists and activists who got outside of the Sochi bubble and covered the wider stories of human rights violations.

The world's attention has been on Russia in the lead up to and during the Olympics. It should remain there. IFEX members and supporters will keep a close eye on developments – monitoring, reporting and finding ways to help improve the climate of free expression in Russia.

See below a summary of what some of the IFEX members have done prior to and during the Olympic Games to monitor the challenges to freedom of expression in Russia.


Fans of free expression keep watch

From censorship to protests, how can you keep up with all of the news during the Olympic Games? Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is monitoring the news each day for updates on free expression issues and events taking place in Sochi, and tracking it all in the timeline below. Check back daily for updated coverage. If you are having trouble viewing this timeline, click here.

For more background information, read this piece about free expression in Russia leading up to the Games.


Reporting from the sidelines – or the frontlines?

Will you be one of the thousands of journalists covering the 2014 Winter Olympics this February? There is a lot going on behind the podium in Sochi and reporting on human rights abuses is risky business in Russia. You might want to consult the resources below to help you prepare for the event.

• The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) wants you to be aware of the risks you face when reporting in Russia. Harassment of foreign journalists, surveillance on journalistic activities and blocking of critical content online are only a few examples. Read this list of the 10 things you need to know published by the European Federation of Journalists.

• A special report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows how the Russian government has been censoring reporting on the Sochi Olympic Games in the run-up to the event, resulting in reduced coverage of sensitive issues in the country. Click here to learn more, and share the report on social media with your networks.

• Consult the Reporters' Guide For Covering the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Human Rights Watch's guide provides an overview of the context and risks for journalists in covering the Olympics and the Paralympics in Sochi. It includes background on the Olympics, human rights abuses related to preparations for the Games, and a factual overview of several laws that may affect reporting.

• Step into the shoes of a Russian journalist. Try IFEX's interactive experience and decide how far you would go to expose the truth. You may be surprised by the dangers faced by local journalists.


Come on, join the global discussion! #WatchSochi







Expression against oppression

The following is a collection of compelling images of peaceful protest around the world against the increasingly hostile environment for free expression and human rights in Russia that followed President Vladimir Putin's re-election in 2012. Many of these photographs were taken at public demonstrations opposing the Kremlin's controversial legislation against “homosexual propaganda” that was introduced in June 2013. Others capture global moments of protest against the Sochi Olympics over alleged government corruption, human rights abuses and constraints on the media.

The images are striking and, in many cases, inspiring. View them, share them, and help IFEX raise awareness about the escalation of attacks on free expression in Russia.


Your survival guide to speaking out in Russia

Demonstrators, artists, journalists, LGBT people and human rights activists are all at risk of being intimidated, arrested or assaulted when they express themselves. The culture of impunity in Russia forces many into silence. Click here to see the infographic.



On your marks, get set…take action!

Freedom House
Are you an athlete, a journalist, a protester or a spectator attending the Olympic Games? In this human rights guide, Freedom House provides a list of simple actions the public can take to denounce violations of free expression in Russia, even if you are only watching the event from your home town.

Which fact do you find the most interesting on the interactive timeline? Spread the word and share it with your friends on social media using the hashtag #WatchSochi.

PEN International
During the Games, PEN will be calling for the repeal of the troika of laws that restrict free expression in Russia: the gay 'propaganda' law, the blasphemy law and criminal defamation that pose a particular threat to writers, journalists and bloggers. Join Out in the Cold Campaign and send a tweet to the Putin administration, calling for the repeal of these laws. Click here for more details about Pen's Out in the Cold Campaign and more background information.

Human Rights Watch
Demand accountability from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and sign HRW's petition asking IOC President Thomas Back to call for the repeal of hate law against LGBTI people.

The Olympic Charter promotes “a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” but the IOC has yet to take action against the various repressive developments in Russian free speech and human rights legislation since President Vladimir Putin's re-election in 2012. Help HRW ask the IOC to take action!

Be sure to check this page regularly for more Sochi-related news and actions from IFEX members!
Related stories on ifex.org
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    "By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people," says Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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  • Russian profiles in courage

    The Sochi Games will be the most expensive Olympics ever, but will they also be the Olympics that come at the greatest cost to human dignity and equality? Or will the world stand up against hatred and discrimination? Meet some of the courageous Russians who are leading the fight against the anti-gay law and policies—despite constant threats against them.

  • Avoiding the Sochi snoopers: Top tips for journalists covering the 2014 Winter Olympics

    Journalists covering the Sochi Winter Olympics will be subject to surveillance by the Russian security services. In this feature article, Alan Pearce, journalist and author specialising in cyber-security and counter-surveillance, provides some top tips and spy-proof measures on how to keep your activities to yourself.

  • Media suffer winter chill in coverage of Sochi Olympics

    In the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, official repression and self-censorship have restricted news coverage of sensitive issues related to the Olympics, such as the exploitation of migrant workers, environmental destruction, and forced evictions.

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