Opposition blogger sentenced to jail in Russia

New York, November 26, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s conviction and sentencing of Russian opposition blogger Sergei Reznik to 18 months in prison in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. CPJ urges Russian authorities to scrap the verdict on appeal.

The Pervomaiskiy District Court declared Reznik guilty on separate counts of insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities, and ordered him imprisoned, the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. According to news reports, after the verdict was announced, authorities placed Reznik in state custody. Yuri Kastrubin, Reznik’s defense attorney, told Kavkazsky Uzel that he will appeal the verdict.

“Today’s verdict muzzling blogger Sergei Reznik is a shameful reminder that critical journalism is not welcome in Russia despite the many high-level assurances and declared commitments to press freedom,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

News reports said Reznik blogged on the popular platform Livejournal and that he also contributed reporting to regional news outlets, including the website Yuzhnyi Federalnyi. His articles for the website criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged widespread corruption and abuses. 

According to news reports, authorities filed charges against Reznik in November 2012. His trial opened in June. The charges of insult stem from a series of articles posted on his blog in which Reznik accused the chairwoman of the Regional Arbitration Court of corruption and nepotism, local and international media reported.

According to news reports, the other two charges against Reznik stem from his reporting threats against him to the police and allegedly bribing a car shop mechanic. According to the regional press, in February 2012 Reznik reported receiving threats by phone from anonymous people who demanded that he stop publishing his articles. Regional authorities said their investigation showed that Reznik had staged the threats to gain public attention and they subsequently accused the blogger of misleading them. Regional prosecutors also accused Reznik of bribing a car shop mechanic to get an inspection sticker for his vehicle.

On October 22, two unidentified men accosted Reznik and his wife outside their apartment building and attacked the blogger with baseball bats and shot at him with a pistol, according to news reports. Although not hit by gunfire, he suffered head and neck injuries from the beating and fell unconscious. The assailants fled the scene after people walking nearby responded to calls for help by Reznik’s wife.

Reznik told CPJ at the time that he considered the attack related to his journalism and said he did not believe that those responsible would be brought to justice. “Police opened the probe, and transferred all the materials to the investigative committee, which ironically has a criminal case opened against me. Most probably they will jail me, and those responsible for the assault will walk free,” he said.

According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, authorities are currently investigating two other charges against Reznik related to his reporting on local authorities. However, officials reported no progress in the investigation of the October 22 attack on the blogger.

“We call on the regional authorities to release Reznik on appeal, and bring to justice those who attacked him last month,” said CPJ’s Ognianova.