21 March, at midnight, ATR TV channel went off air, since Russia refused to register the only Crimean Tatar channel in the world, broadcasting 24/7 since 2006 in three languages: Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian and Russian.
Shutting down of Crimean Tatar channel became yet another stage of Kremlin’s stealthy and systematic genocide of Crimean Tatars during the last year. First Russia killed some of their children and expelled their leaders from Crimea, then started ransacking their houses and sending Mejlis members to prison. And now they cut off their information channel.
ATR had been struggling the whole year of Crimean occupation long. There even was a small hope they would manage to make arrangements with occupants. But all illusions were gone, when 26 January Russian special police units raided channel’s office in Simferopol and seized its servers. That day ATR Deputy Director General on Information Policy Lilya Budzhurova said: “By cancelling the meeting of 18 May [the day, when Soviet authorities deported Crimean Tatars from Crimea in 1944], they prohibited Crimean Tatars from crying. And now they apparently want to prohibit them from seeing, hearing and speaking.”
The channel managed to continue its work after the raid, but not for long. Russia used different tactics this time, requiring from Crimean mass-media to register with Russian Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications. ATR submitted the required documents several times, but the Agency kept returning them, until the deadline of 1 April. The same fate was prepared for other mass-media being a part of ATR media-holding, including children Crimean Tatar TV channel Lale and FM-radio station Meydan.
Yesterday, Crimea Tatars came to support their national channel in Simferopol. Sad faces and tears in the eyes revealed their pain.
On Saturday, March 28, Ukrainians came to Maidan in Kyiv to support ATR.
In response to such gross violation of freedom of speech in Crimea, President Poroshenko stated: “They can turn off a TV channel, but they can’t prevent striving of Crimean Tatar People for freedom and truth!”
The reaction of various international organizations, including Amnesty International, is very strong. They condemn assault on the freedom of speech in Crimea. At the same time, Putin’s spokesman Peskov cynically claims that solution of the issue “is no Kremlin’s function”.
During the last hour of ATR broadcast, Lilya Budzhurova made a powerful statement saying:
“Our people survived Stalin. Will they be able to survive today’s challenges? They will. And will preserve their existence. And will continue building their home on their land… Yes, we will stop broadcasting today, but we know we will be back. We are always back. And we will say “ATR is on air” again”.
Aleksandra Demskaya, EMPR