On 13 April, the editorial staff of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a statement saying they were fearing for their safety following their report on detentions, tortures, and killings of Chechen man suspected of being gay.
According to the newspaper, more than a hundred men were detained and at least three were killed. Many believe that these numbers are understated. The Chechen authorities denied Novaya Gazeta’s findings, calling it an attempt to ‘tarnish Chechnya’s reputation’. They also argued that there were no gay men in Chechnya.
The newspaper quotes a resolution adopted on 3 April during an emergency meeting of about 15,000 members of 24 Chechen virds (religious communities), Islamic theologians, and public figures in Grozny. According to the newspaper, the second point of the resolution is an open call to violence.
‘As an insult was inflicted on the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, as well as our faith, we promise that retribution will overtake true instigators, wherever and whoever they may be, with no statute of limitations’, the resolution reads.
The newspaper wrote that the resolution ‘encouraged religious fanatics to violence against journalists’ and called the Russian authorities to ensure the safety of journalists.
The resolution also called Novaya Gazeta’s report ‘lie and slander’ and called Russian media to ‘use reliable sources and opinions of competent specialists’.
The Russian authorities condemned threats against journalists and said that the Kremlin was monitoring the situation.
‘We believe that if, in someone’s opinion, there were slanderous materials, there are legal ways of contestation. Of course, we are categorically opposed to any other methods of exercising influence, especially if such could pose a threat to the safety and life of journalists’, the press secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov said.
Since the story broke, several Russian and international media outlets published testimonies of queer Chechen men who managed to flee the republic. The Guardian reported that the Chechen authorities used the tactic of blackmailing queer men into working to identify and out other queer men in return for the police not telling their families.
Russian LGBT Network, Saint Petersburg–based NGO, declared that unknown people claiming to be queer rights activists were targeting queer Chechen men and offering them help with fleeing abroad, which could possibly pose a threat to life.