New York, February 17, 2021 – Russian authorities should investigate the nonconsensual release of journalist Elena Solovyova’s financial information online and ensure that the perpetrators are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In several posts on February 4 and 10, the anonymous Telegram channel “Komi-Telega,” which has over 6,000 subscribers, published copies of Solovyova’s tax forms for work she did as a reporter for a number of media outlets, including U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Russian independent news website 7×7, and a copy of her work contract with RFE/RL, according to Solovyova, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, a Facebook post by the journalist, and the Telegram posts, which CPJ reviewed.
The posts called Solovyova, a freelance reporter based in the northwestern city of Syktyvkar in the Russian republic of Komi, a “foreign agent” and “parasite” involved in “dark financial deeds.” On February 13, the account posted that it would publish “more revelations” about the journalist.
“Komi-Telega” frequently posts criticism of independent journalists and human rights activists, alleging that they have sold out to the West, according to CPJ’s review of the account.
“Russian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the leaking of journalist Elena Solovyova’s financial information online, hold those responsible to account, and ensure that she can work freely and without fear,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director. “Authorities must take the harassment and doxxing of independent journalists seriously.”
The nonconsensual disclosure of private financial documents is illegal in Russia, and is punishable by up to three years in prison, according to the Russian criminal code.
Solovyova and her lawyer, Viсtor Vorobyov, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, told CPJ that the leaked documents could only be accessed by the state authorities, and that they believed it was an attempt to harass Solovyova for her work.
Solovyova has covered topics such as authorities’ alleged failings in addressing the coronavirus pandemic, police violence and detentions during rallies in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the detentions of environmental activists.
Today, Solovyova filed a criminal complaint about the Telegram posts to the Department for Economic Security and Anti-Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Komi, according to the journalist and Vorobyov.
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Komi for comment, but did not receive any response.