Today’s news headlines: Moscow lifts lockdown; controversial acquittal in Kyrgyzstan; Roma in Slovakia; media freedom in Tajikistan; and the Estonian digital workplace.
Russian Capital Emerges From Two-Month Lockdown
Starting today, most pandemic-control restrictions in Moscow will be lifted, leaving residents of the Russian capital able to walk and use public transport without constraints once again, according to Euronews. Hairdressers will also be able to resume business today, while outdoor cafe and restaurant seating will open in a week. “Finally, on 23 June we plan to lift the restrictions on the sports industry, reopen swimming pools, health and fitness centers. Passenger navigation on the Moscow River will resume,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told journalists. After a peak of 6,000 new coronavirus cases registered in a day, the number of new infections has now fallen to around 2,000 a day. Russia has registered more than 480,000 infections up to this point, with some criticizing its methodology for counting COVID-19 deaths, attributing them to other causes if people infected with the virus were suffering from other severe illnesses at the time of their deaths. The lifting of restrictions comes as the Kremlin prepares to hold the postponed Victory Day military parade on Red Square, as well as a national referendum on extending President Vladimir Putin’s time in office, NPR reports.
Critics of Verdict in Kyrgyz Rape Trial Demand Judge’s Dismissal
Angered after a judge in Kyrgyzstan let a man suspected of raping a 13-year-old girl walk free last year, more than 3,500 people have signed a petition asking for his dismissal, Eurasianet writes. A member of the Kyrgyz parliament has asked the Supreme Court to review the case. The alleged assault happened in 2016 before the girl set off on a trip to a summer camp on Lake Issyk-Kul. In addition to sexual violence, bride kidnapping persists in Kyrgyzstan despite years of criticism by both international bodies and domestic activists. Abductors and their families often coerce the victim into agreeing to the marriage, sometimes using rape as a means of shaming the woman and making it impossible for her to return home.
Slovak Lockdown of Roma Communities Earns Praise, Blame
Weeks after it was lifted, a lockdown introduced at the height of the coronavirus pandemic on five Roma settlements in Slovakia still divides public opinion, Balkan Insight writes. The five settlements in eastern Slovakia were placed under a police- and army-imposed 16-day quarantine starting on 9 April. While some now commend the initiative for stopping the spread of COVID-19, others see it as a human rights violation, given that only places inhabited by Roma were the target of such severe restrictions. “Any measures that deliberately target entire communities, without evidence that such communities present a danger for public health during the pandemic, are likely to be arbitrary and disproportionate, and may constitute discrimination,” Amnesty International wrote in April. Frantisek Ziga, mayor of one of the settlements, Bystrany, described the lockdown as the biggest challenge ever faced by his community, other than occasional floods. Bystrany resident Jan Dunka admitted to being “a little afraid,” but also added: “We can survive anything.”
Tajik Media Expert Describes Media Blackout, Self-Censorship
“The situation on the ground is much worse than the reports of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan,” journalism mentor and trainer Marat Mamadshoev told Deutsche Welle in an interview describing the coronavirus pandemic in the Central Asian country. Mamadshoev also touched on the way the authorities are choosing to present the situation – and control the news coverage. “Independent television and radio stations are forced to tighten their grip on self-censorship for fear of losing their license. So they mainly produce entertainment,” he said, adding that “the prosecution of these media organizations for criticism also plays a role.” Fifteen Tajik NGOs and several journalists wrote an open letter made public on 3 June and addressed to the presidential administration, the prosecutor-general’s office, and the country’s ombudsman, asking for a thorough investigation into the recent attacks on a journalist working for the independent Asia-Plus news agency, Radio Free Europe reports. Abdulloh Ghurbati was attacked and beaten twice last month. The attackers in the first incident have not been found, while in the second case three residents of the southern Khatlon region were found guilty of petty hooliganism and fined 580 somonis ($56) each.
Estonia Offers Visas to Digital Nomads
In a bid to attract foreigners who can work independently of location and time, the Estonian government has approved the creation of a special visa for “digital nomads,” according to SchengenVisaInfo.com, a website with Schengen zone information and news. The Estonian Interior Ministry explained that both short- and long-term visas of this kind are available, and that up to 1,800 people per year would be eligible. “A digital nomads visa strengthens Estonia’s image as an e-state and thus enables Estonia to have a more effective say on an international scale. It also contributes to the export of Estonian e-solutions, which is especially important in recovering from the current economic crisis,” Prime Minister Mart Helme said. The Baltic country, known as a haven for techies, is already home to footloose digital visitors, although many have only a tourist visa and are not permitted to work in the country, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports. Several other European countries already offer digital nomad visas, as do Costa Rica and Mexico, according to SchengenVisaInfo.