sochistadium 300x200 Russia Harassing And Silencing Journalists Who Have Criticized Sochi Games Preparations

Skating palace and Olympic stadium, under construction in Sochi / Getty Images)

Russia’s quest to become the most embarrassing nation ever to host the Olympic games continues apace, with a new report from Human Rights Watch detailing the harassment of activists and journalists who have dared to have an opinion about the nation’s preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games:

Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  against abuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

The article points out that freedom of the press is an integral part of the Olympic Charter.

The “background” section of the article points out, though, that this harassment of journalists is part of a pattern inflicted by the Russian government ever since the start of Sochi preparations, with targets as varied as NGOs, migrant workers, scientists, environmental activists and others.

Of course, LGBT people have been a target in the lead-up to Sochi. The article describes what happened when LGBT activists filed papers to create a Pride House during the Olympics, as had been done in London and Vancouver:

In October 2011, a group of LGBT activists submitted documents to register a Pride House in Sochi, but two months later, Krasnodar region authorities rejected the request, citing the fact that the organization’s name was not “written in the Russian language” in the registration documents. In February 2012 a court upheld the rejection, citing alleged errors in the registration documents.

The judge also stated that the purpose of the organization would “contradict the foundations of public morality and government policy in the area of protection of the family, motherhood and childhood” and that its activity could “undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation as a result of the reduction of its population.”

That sounds like it could have been written by Tony Perkins, doesn’ t it?