Washington, D.C., August 8, 2019–Russian authorities should allow journalists to cover protests freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today, after the detention of several journalists and the use of force by police against the media during demonstrations in Moscow on July 27 and August 3.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow on July 27 and August 3 to protest the city electoral commission’s decision to forbid independent candidates from taking part in municipal elections slated for September, according to news reports. According to local reports, police detained more than 1,000 people at each of the two demonstrations.
At both protests, police disregarded journalists’ press accreditation by threatening them and obstructing their work, damaged their equipment, and forcefully detained them, according to those reports and the Journalists’ Union of Russia–a nongovernmental trade union–which compiled summaries of the violations on its Facebook page.
“Moscow’s police force should ensure the safety of the press covering protests, not obstruct or detain journalists simply for doing their jobs,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “This aggression toward Russia’s independent press is a clear attempt to intimidate journalists and censor coverage.”
Police actions against journalists included the following incidents on July 27 and August 3, as documented by the journalists’ union, as well as local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and independent media outlets:
- Police shoved and hit RosBiznesConsulting (RBC) journalist Elena Sheveleva on July 27, according to independent news website Mediazona.
- On July 27, police hit Victoria Odissonova, a photojournalist with Novaya Gazeta, in the face and damaged her camera, Novaya Gazeta reported.
- Journalists with independent outlets detained on July 27 without charge include: Sergey Dik, Deutsche Welle; Sergey Hazov-Kassiya, Radio Liberty; Roman Golovanov, Komsomolskoya Pravda; Maksim Kondratev, Avtozak Live; Pavel Yablonskiy, The Village; Vladimir Dergachev, RBC; Semyon Krasotkin, Chastniy Korrespondent; Evgeniy Rozhkov, Nash Sever; and Mariya Svetkova, Reuters, according to the union’s reports.
- Three journalists–Balaram Usov and Nataliya Tishkevich of DOXA, and Ilya Azar from Novaya Gazeta–who were briefly detained July 27 face potential charges related to article 20.2 paragraph 5 of the country’s administrative code, which pertains to violating the established procedure for holding a public meeting, according to the union’s reports.
- Journalists detained on August 3 include: Elena Vavina of Vedomosti; Vladimir Romenskiy of TV Rain; Alexandra Semenova and Aleksey Stepanov of MBKh Media; Aleksey Maschenko of Two Chairs; and Nikita Pavlyuk-Pavluchenko of Snob.ru, according to the union’s reports.
In addition, police on July 27 searched independent broadcaster TV Rain’s office and questioned editor-in-chief Sasha Perepelova in connection with the outlet’s live coverage of the protest, TV Rain and The Moscow Times reported.
The Moscow police department did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.