Staff of Dagestani weekly on trial for extremism in Russia

New York, March 10, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today at the continued criminal prosecution of five journalists with the Dagestani independent weekly Chernovik.

Editor-in-Chief Nadira Isayeva and reporters Magomed Magomedov, Artur Mamayev, Timur Mustafayev, and Biyakai Magomedov are charged with incitement of hatred and demeaning the honor of law enforcement officials as a “social group” in several stories published in Chernovik in 2008. Under Article 282 of Russia’s criminal code, the four reporters face up to two years in prison if convicted; Isayeva faces up to five years as editor of the publication, CPJ research shows.
“We call on the Leninsky District Court to fully acquit Nadira Isayeva, Magomed Magomedov, Artur Mamayev, Timur Mustafayev, and Biyakai Magomedov,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Authorities, including those in law enforcement, must learn to tolerate the scrutiny that comes with public office.”

Dagestani prosecutors charged Isayeva in August 2008 with making public calls to extremism and incitement of hatred stemming from an article called “Terrorists Number One” published that July. It quoted a late guerilla leader who had fought in Dagestan and Chechnya against federal forces during the Second Chechen War and accused regional authorities of corruption and enslaving themselves to the Kremlin. Authorities charged that the article “publicly justifies terrorism,” according to an August 6, 2008, press release by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

Chernovik is often critical of regional police and the Federal Security Service. Isayeva and her colleagues have contended that antiterrorist operations carried out by the two agencies fueled the rise of militant Islam in the region.

In the 19 months since the initial charge was leveled against Isayeva, Dagestani authorities have raided the homes of Chernovik journalists, looking for “extremist” materials. They have tried to close down the paper for allegedly carrying “extremist statements” and indicted the four other Chernovik journalists in connection with a total of 10 articles published in the weekly, according to CPJ’s research. The trial of the five journalists began in January, without a plaintiff present, Isayeva told CPJ.

The contents of the Chernovik articles in question have been subjected to analyses by psychological and linguistic experts appointed by the prosecution and employed by state institutions. Isayeva told CPJ that she and her colleagues will appeal for independent, outside analyses of the paper’s contents.

According to a May 2009 statement by the independent Moscow-based organization Sova, which specializes in monitoring acts of nationalism and xenophobia in Russia, Chernovik’s materials do not carry calls to extremism.