Federal Security Services refuse to issue international passport to journalist Pasko

New York, June 4, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned that the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB) has failed to approve an application for a foreign passport for journalist Grigory Pasko. It is standard procedure in Russia that the FSB clear applications for foreign passports before they are processed.

If his foreign passport is not issued immediately, Pasko will be unable to attend an international meeting of freedom of expression groups in Baku, Azerbaijan, in mid-June. The Toronto-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) will hold the meeting beginning June 14.

“I would very much like to attend the IFEX conference, but without a [foreign] passport, I am stranded here,” Pasko told CPJ today.

Pasko filed an application for a foreign passport with the Interior Ministry Department’s Southeastern Administrative District on April 14. Under Russian law, the application should have been processed within a month. However, passport authorities told Pasko that the FSB has failed to process the request.

Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison on December 25, 2001, for intending to leak classified information to Japanese news outlets about the Russian Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan. The journalist was released on parole based on good behavior in January 2003 after having served two-thirds of his sentence.

In July 2003, authorities denied Pasko’s application for a foreign passport on the grounds that he was released from prison before serving his full sentence.

“Grigory Pasko has already suffered through imprisonment and harassment,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The fact that he is being prevented from traveling abroad is disturbing. We urge the FSB to approve his passport application immediately so he can join his colleagues at the IFEX conference in Baku.”