New York, January 19, 2021– Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Dmitry Timoshenko, drop all charges against him, and stop using the country’s court system to harass members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police in the eastern city of Khabarovsk have detained Timoshenko, a correspondent for the independent regional newspaper Arsenievskie Vesti, three times since January 16 while he covered protests in the city; he was most recently arrested this afternoon and remains in custody, according to news reports.
“Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Dmitry Timoshenko, drop all charges against him, and stop detaining journalists on trumped-up charges in order to keep them from covering protests in Khabarovsk,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “These repeated arrests and fines are harassment clearly aimed at intimidating the news media into silence.”
On January 16, police detained Timoshenko while he was covering a protest in support of the region’s former governor, who was arrested in July, according to those news reports. Police officers hit Timoshenko while he was held in their car, according to a statement by his employer, which did not specify the extent of any injuries he sustained.
Yesterday, the Central District Court of Khabarovsk ordered Timoshenko’s release and fined him 10,500 rubles (US$143) for alleged failure to comply with police and for disturbing traffic while he was covering a separate protest on October 24, 2020, according to news reports.
Before he could exit the court following that sentencing, police detained him again, and held him until today, when he was fined 75,000 rubles (US$1,017) for “repeated violation of the regulations on conducting rallies” in relation to a protest he covered on November 24, according to news reports, the district court’s website and a report by Activatica, a local independent outlet that covers protests.
Today, after he was fined and ordered to be released, police detained Timoshenko while he was exiting the court, allegedly for participating in another unsanctioned event on October 26, according to news reports and a video of his arrest published by the independent YouTube news channel Vitamin.
Repeated participation in unsanctioned events can carry a punishment of up to 30 days of administrative detention, according to Russian law.
In Arsenievskie Vesti’s statement, his employer denied that Timoshenko had illegally participated in any protests, and said he was being persecuted for his work.
Khabarovsk authorities have repeatedly detained, released, and then rearrested journalists covering protests in the city, CPJ has documented.
CPJ emailed the Central District Court of Khabarovsk and Irina Schegoleva, a representative of the Khabarovsk Region Ministry of Internal Affairs, for comment, but did not receive any replies.