Washington, D.C., July 22, 2019 -- Authorities in the Republic of Ingushetia must release journalist Rashid Maysigov unconditionally and investigate allegations that he was tortured in custody, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On July 12, in Nazran, a town in the Republic of Ingushetia, a republic within the Russian Federation, agents from the local division of the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Maysigov, a reporter for investigative news website Fortanga who also administers the outlet's channel on Telegram, according to his lawyer, Magomed Aushev, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and local news reports.
Agents detained Maysigov after raiding his home, where they allegedly found drugs and printed materials calling for the unification of Ingushetia with the neighboring Republic of Georgia, according to those reports. Maysigov told his lawyer that FSB agents took him into custody and interrogated him about his journalism, electrocuted him during questioning, and forced him to confess to possessing drugs, Aushev told CPJ.
On July 16, a Magassky district court formally placed Maysigov under arrest and ordered him to remain in pre-trial detention in jail for two months pending an investigation into alleged illegal drug possession, his lawyer told CPJ.
"Ingushetia authorities should drop the investigation into Rashid Maysigov, immediately release him, and investigate allegations that he was mistreated while in custody," said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. "The Russian Federation has a long history of fabricating charges against reporters, who provide an important public service and whose work should be valued, not criminalized."
At Fortanga, Maysigov contributed to reports on alleged corruption, unemployment, and human rights violations in Ingushetia, a representative from the website, who requested anonymity citing fear of reprisal, told CPJ via messaging app. Maysigov told his employer that the FSB had tapped his phone, and he believed agents were following him, prompting him to suspend his journalism activities in June, the representative said.
Maysigov's lawyer told CPJ that the journalist will appeal the court ruling.
On July 14, Russia's media regulatory agency, Roskomnadzor, blocked Fortanga's website, according to news reports; it was unblocked on July 21, the Fortanga representative told CPJ.
CPJ did not receive a response to its emailed request for comment from the FSB division in Ingushetia.