Kiev, February 1, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Russian authorities today to return all confiscated property to independent journalist Pavel Nikulin, and stop harassing him in retaliation for his reporting. The Federal Security Service (FSB) yesterday morning raided Nikulin’s Moscow apartment, and brought the journalist to agency headquarters where he was questioned for several hours about his report on a Russian man who said he fought with Islamic State militants in Syria, according to media reports.
A Russian regional court named Nikulin as a witness in a criminal investigation into “illegal terrorist training” in relation to the article, and issued a search warrant for his apartment, according to messages the journalist sent on his public Telegram channel and a report from the independent Russian news site Mediazona.
During the apartment search, which took place from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., agents confiscated the journalist’s Apple MacBook, iPhone, netbook, and his partner’s MacBook, the journalist told CPJ in an email. The FSB has not returned any of the equipment, Nikulin said.
No lawyer was present at Nikulin’s apartment when police arrived, though Roman Klimov, a lawyer with the nongovernmental organization Open Russia, later arrived at the scene, Mediazona reported. Klimov was also present during Nikulin’s questioning at FSB headquarters, according to the reports.
“We call on Russian authorities to cease their harassment of Pavel Nikulin, return all seized equipment, and allow him to work without fear of reprisal,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said from New York. “Conflating independent reporting with terrorism chills coverage of matters of public interest.”
CPJ was unable to immediately reach Russian authorities for comment.
Nikulin’s article, “From Kaluga with Jihad,” was published in the Russian news magazine The New Times in March 2017, and featured an interview with a man who said he was from Russia’s Kaluga region and had gone to Syria to fight alongside alongside a militant Islamic group.
In June 2017, a Moscow court fined The New Times 100,000 rubles (US$1,780) for publishing Nikulin’s article, after ruling that the text “publicly justifies terrorism,” according to the Riga-based regional news website Meduza.
Nikulin’s article has since been removed from The New Times website but has been republished by third party sites.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The seventh paragraph has been changed to correct the details of the man’s activities in Syria.