Security forces arrest a protester in Moscow, March 26, 2017. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)
Security forces arrest a protester in Moscow, March 26, 2017. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

Journalists detained covering Russia protests

New York, March 27, 2017–Russian security forces should cease harassing and obstructing journalists covering protests and other events, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Russian media reported that at least 11 journalists were detained yesterday while reporting on nationwide protests. All have since been released.

Thousands of people protested alleged government corruption in 99 cities across the country yesterday. According to press reports and the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), a press freedom advocacy group, riot police prevented journalists from covering protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Saratov, and Makhachkala. In all but 17 of the cities where they took place, the rallies were not approved by the government, and were therefore considered illegal or “unsanctioned,” The New York Times reported.

“We call on Russian authorities to cease detaining journalists to prevent them from covering demonstrations,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Obstructing journalists trying to cover protests is crude censorship, and a clear violation of Russians’ right to receive information of significant national and global interest.”

Among the journalists detained by police in Moscow while reporting on the largely peaceful protest there were Aleksandr Plyushchev, a correspondent with the Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy; freelance journalist Denis Styazhkin; Timofei Dzyadko, a reporter with the daily newspaper RBK; and Alec Luhn, a correspondent for The Guardian, according to local press reports. Luhn described his detention in The Guardian today.

In St. Petersburg, police detained Nadezhda Zaitseva, a reporter with the national daily Vedomosti; Artyom Aleksandrov, a journalist with the local publication Delovoi Peterburg; and Sergei Satanovsky, a correspondent with the St. Petersburg edition of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, according to Russian press reports.

In Makhachkala, the regional capital of Russia’s Dagestan republic, police detained Kommersant daily correspondent Sergei Rasulov; Faina Kachabekova, of the regional news website Kavkazskaya Politika; and Vladimir Sevrinovsky, a correspondent with the local news website Eto Kavkaz, according to GDF and media reports.

In the Volga River city of Saratov, GDF reported, police detained Aleksandr Nikishin, a correspondent for the online television channel Otkryty Kanal.

All journalists detained yesterday were held on suspicion of participating in or organizing an unsanctioned rally, and have since been released, GDF reported. It remains unclear whether authorities will prosecute any of the journalists.

Police across the country detained some 1,400 protesters at yesterday’s protests, which were the largest in Russia since 2012, the English-language daily newspaper The Moscow Times reported, citing the monitoring organization OVD-Info.