Environmental journalist Grigory Pasko receives international passport

New York, August 4, 2004—After weeks of delays, Russian officials have approved a passport for environmental journalist Grigory Pasko, whose prior reporting on the dumping of nuclear waste had drawn the ire of authorities.

“I am happy with this development even though authorities had no right to keep my application in limbo for that long,” Pasko said in an interview today with CPJ, which had advocated for the passport approval. He said he was notified of the approval on June 30.

Pasko had filed an application for a passport with the Interior Ministry’s Southeastern Administrative District on April 14. The application should have been processed within a month under Russian law, but authorities initially told Pasko the Federal Security Services (FSB) had not processed his request. It is standard procedure for the FSB to clear passport applications from Russian citizens.

On June 4, CPJ protested the failure to approve Pasko’s foreign passport. (Click here to read CPJ’s alert). Because no passport was issued, Pasko could not travel to Azerbaijan to attend the International Freedom of Expression Exchange meeting in Baku in mid-June. Pasko filed a claim on June 28 with the Moscow Lyublino District Court, protesting his stalled application.

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.

Authorities had denied an earlier passport application, in 2003, on grounds that Pasko was released from prison before serving his full sentence.