New York, January 22, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the conviction and three-year sentence handed to critical reporter Sergei Reznik in Russia today and calls on authorities to overturn the verdict on appeal.
Reznik was due to be released in May after serving an 18-month prison term on charges of insult, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities, according to CPJ research. The reporter and his lawyers denounced the earlier charges as fabricated, independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
In the latest case Reznik was convicted of fresh charges of insult and misleading authorities, and was sentenced by the Leninsky District Court in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, to three years in a prison colony, according to the regional press. The court also banned Reznik from practicing journalism for two years, reports said. Reznik's lawyers told CPJ they will be appealing the verdict.
"Evidently, 18 months in prison for Sergei Reznik is not enough to satisfy Russian officials that they have significantly intimidated him and other journalists into keeping silent," said Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. "We call on authorities to overturn this bizarre conviction on appeal and stop persecuting Reznik for his critical writing."
Before he was jailed in November 2013, Reznik contributed reports to several regional news websites, including Yuzhnyi Federalnyi, and posted articles to his blog on popular platform LiveJournal, according to news reports. His articles criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged corruption and abuses, reports said. The original charges against Reznik included allegations that he had lied about threats against him. In October 2012, eight months after he reported the threats, he was physically attacked outside his apartment, according to CPJ research.
A statement about the latest verdict, released by the Prosecutor General's Office, said that in May 2013, while the earlier case was being investigated, Reznik made a statement that contained deliberately false information about a police agent who had testified against him. Prosecutors also said that from March 2012 to October 2013 Reznik "repeatedly published on the Internet articles of insulting character against the law enforcement agents of Rostov region, thus depicting his discontent with their fulfillment of duties."
According to independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel, the case was opened in July while Reznik was serving his jail term. Russian authorities and news outlets did not specify which of Reznik's articles spurred the complaint. The journalist denied the accusations in court and said his LiveJournal blog included contributions from other writers, his lawyers told CPJ.
The court began hearing the case against Reznik in August, but closed the proceedings to the public and press, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. He is being held at a pretrial detention facility in Rostov-on-Don, his lawyers told CPJ.