Vilnius, October 4, 2019 — Russian authorities should drop the charges against journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva and stop harassing reporters covering her case, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On February 6, authorities raided the home of Prokopyeva, a Pskov-based stringer for the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian-language service and liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, and accused her of “justifying terrorism” in comments made during a 2018 Ekho Moskvy broadcast, as CPJ reported at the time. On September 20, police formally filed charges against her, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Yesterday, Pskov authorities summoned Maksim Kostikov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy’s Pskov affiliate, and Aleksandr Savenko, editor of independent news website Pskovskaya Lenta Novostey, after each outlet published an open letter from Prokopyeva about her case on October 1, according to a report by independent daily Novaya Gazeta.
Authorities at the Pskov branch of the Investigative Committee interrogated each journalist, but Savenko told Novaya Gazeta that he could not elaborate on the content of the interrogation because of a non-disclosure agreement he had signed with the police.
The letter was also published in nearly a dozen outlets throughout Russia, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“The prosecution of journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva and the intimidation and harassment of journalists reporting on her case shows how far Russian authorities will go to silence independent voices,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “The charges against Prokopyeva should be dropped and other journalists must be allowed to cover her case freely.”
In February, authorities fined Ekho Moskvy 150,000 roubles ($2,296) for broadcasting Prokopyeva’s comments that allegedly justified terrorism, and fined Pskovskaya Lenta Novostey 200,000 roubles ($3,094) for publishing a transcript of the remarks, according to Novaya Gazeta.
In her open letter, Prokopyeva called the charges against her “the murder of freedom of speech.” If found guilty, she could face up to seven years in prison for her comments, according to CPJ reporting.
CPJ’s emailed request for comment and phone call to the Pskov Investigative Committee went unanswered.