Austrian journalist expelled from Russia in retaliation for Vienna’s expulsion of Tasso’s counterpart
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Austrian journalist expelled from Russia in retaliation for Vienna’s expulsion of Tasso’s counterpart

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has withdrawn the accreditation of Austrian journalist Maria Knips-Witting, who worked for the public broadcaster ORF, and ordered her to leave the country following Austria’s expulsion of a journalist working for the Russian state news agency Tass. Knips-Witting had been in Moscow since January, but was ordered to surrender her accreditation and leave “in the near future.” The move was a reaction to Austria’s withdrawal of the accreditation of Tass correspondent Ivan Popov six weeks ago. The latest action against foreign journalists in Russia comes amid a tense atmosphere for foreign correspondents in the country.

A notable case that has gained attention is that of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested nearly 15 months ago on espionage charges and is currently in prison awaiting trial. Another disturbing incident involved American-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who was detained in October 2023 for failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Additionally, Eva Hartog, a Dutch journalist working for Politico, was denied a visa extension in August 2023, and in March, Xavier Colas of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo said he was forced to leave Russia when authorities refused to grant him a new visa. These cases reflect a broader pattern of restrictions and repression against foreign journalists in Russia in recent months.

The decision to expel Maria Knips-Witting follows a series of actions taken against foreign reporters in Russia, raising concerns about press freedom in the country. The move highlights the challenges facing journalists working in an atmosphere of increasing restrictions and surveillance. While official justifications have been provided in each individual case, the broader trend points to a broader crackdown on independent journalism in Russia, with a particular focus on foreign correspondents.

The situation also drew attention to the treatment of foreign journalists in Russia, as well as broader issues of press freedom and freedom of speech. The expulsion of Maria Knips-Witting and other recent cases highlight the risks faced by journalists operating in environments where censorship and government restrictions prevail. The international community has expressed concern about the treatment of foreign reporters in Russia, calling on the government to respect press freedom and uphold journalists’ rights to report without fear of reprisal.

In response to Russia’s decision to expel Maria Knips-Witting, Austrian public broadcaster ORF expressed disappointment and condemned the actions taken by the Russian government. ORF expressed its commitment to supporting its journalists and ensuring their safety and freedom to report without interference. The situation has further strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, increasing existing tensions and highlighting the challenges faced by foreign journalists operating in politically sensitive environments.

Overall, the recent expulsion of Maria Knips-Witting and the broader crackdown on foreign journalists in Russia reflect a disturbing trend of increasing restrictions on press freedom in the country. The cases of journalists who have been targeted underscore the risks faced by those who wish to write independently in environments where government control and censorship prevail. The international community called for greater respect for press freedom in Russia and the right of journalists to act freely and without fear of reprisal. The situation highlights the importance of respecting press freedom as a fundamental right necessary for a free and open society.