New York, February 2, 2021 – Russian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all journalists detained during recent protests, and allow members of the press to cover political demonstrations without fear, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
During nationwide protests by supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny on January 31, as well as in their immediate run-up, police throughout the country detained, intimidated, or harassed at least 122 journalists, according to news reports and a report by the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, an independent trade group.
In previous pro-Navalny protests on January 23, the union reported about half as many such attacks, as CPJ documented at the time.
“Russian authorities should stop punishing journalists who are doing their jobs, and immediately drop all charges against all media workers being targeted for their reporting on the protests of January 23 and 31,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Journalists covering civil unrest should be protected by law enforcement, not detained and harassed.”
On January 30, police in Moscow detained Sergey Smirnov, chief editor of the independent human rights news website Mediazona; Ivan Yegorov, correspondent with the independent YouTube political news channel Another Opinion; and Artyom Kriger, a correspondent with the independent news website Sota.Vision, according to news reports, social media posts, a report by the independent human rights news website Ovd-Info, and Smirnov, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
Police held Yegorov and Kriger briefly and then released them without charge, but charged Smirnov with illegally organizing a protest on January 23, according to those sources.
Smirnov told CPJ that authorities accused him of repeated violations of the law on rallies and public events, but he said that he spent January 23 at home and did not organize or participate in any demonstrations that day. Police held him for about eight hours and then released him with a mandate that he return to court tomorrow for a hearing in his case, he said.
If convicted of illegally organizing a protest, he could face up to 30 days of arrest, according to Russian law.
“It is so obvious to everyone that I am a journalist and not an organizer of the protests of January 23, I have a hard time providing any comment on these charges at all. I think it is insane,” Smirnov told CPJ.
Also on January 30 in Moscow, police issued written warnings against “participating in the unsanctioned protest action of January 31” to Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of the independent news outlet The Insider; Semyon Zakruzhny, a correspondent with the TV channel Pyatnitsa; Mariya Baronova, correspondent with the state-funded broadcaster Russia Today; Andrey Novichkov, correspondent for the news website Grani.ru; and correspondent Vladimir Romensky and editor Daniil Sotnikov, both from the independent broadcaster Dozhd, according to that report by Ovd-Info and other news reports.
Police issued similar warnings on January 30 to journalists across Russia, including Timofey Yefremov, deputy editor and correspondent with the independent news website Yakutia.Info in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk; Maksim Karpikov, chief editor of the independent news outlet Nash Gorod in the western Siberian city of Tyumen; Maria Tokmakova, a correspondent with the independent news website 72.ru in Tyumen; Mstislav Pismenkov, a correspondent with the independent news website Znak, in Tyumen; and Aleksei Mazur, a correspondent with the independent news site Tayga.Info in the southwestern Siberian city of Novosibirsk, according Ovd-Info, news reports, and Yefremov, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Also on January 30, police in the southwestern city of Belgorod detained Vladimir Kornev, chief editor of the Telegram channel Belgorod No.1, according to Ovd-Info and news reports; on the same day, the court convicted him of organizing an unsanctioned event and sentenced him to three days of detention.
On January 31, police detained dozens of journalists across the country, according to news reports.
According to a report by Ovd-Info, multiple news reports and social media posts, a liveblog by Mediazona, and a report by the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, the journalists detained in Moscow that day included:
- Anastasiya Demidas, correspondent with the independent news website Vot Tak TV
- Daniil Turovsky, correspondent with the independent YouTube channel vDud
- Georgiy Malets, photographer with the independent broadcaster Belsat TV
- Dmitry Balashov, correspondent with the liberal news website Open Media
- Emil Yunusov and Danil Afonin, correspondents with Sota.Vision
- Mikhail Zelensky, deputy chief editor with the independent news website Kholod
- Oleg Pshenichny, correspondent with The Insider
- Anton Feynberg, correspondent from the business news outlet RBK
- Sergey Parkhomenko, political commentator and host of the liberal radio station Echo Moskvy
- Svetlana Khrustalyova, correspondent for the independent newspaper Sobesednik
- Ivan Kleymenov, correspondent for the independent news website Meduza
Police interrogated Malets and Balashov as witnesses of the January 23 protests, and released them without charge, according to a Facebook post by Malets and a report by Balashov’s employer. Police also released Yunusova, Afonin, and Feynberg without charge, according to Feynberg and Sota.Vision editor Alexei Obukhov, both of whom spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Police released Parkhomenko on the same day, after charging him with “participating in an unsanctioned event” and interfering with transportation in the city during the protest; the court hearing on his case was assigned for February 26, according to news reports.
Police beat Khrustalyova with batons on her arms and body while detaining her, according to her employer and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. She told CPJ that police held her for two hours in a small van with 15 other people, and she had a difficulty breathing. Once at the police station, she was fingerprinted, charged with “participating in an unsanctioned event,” and released, she said.
Police detained Turovsky overnight, and on February 1 convicted him of “participating in an unsanctioned event,” fined him 20,000 rubles (US$263), and released him, according to Meduza. Zelensky was similarly detained overnight; convicted of the same charge, and fined 10,000 rubles (US$132), according to Ovd-Info. Demidas was also convicted of “participating in an unsanctioned event” and sentenced to four days of administrative arrest, according to her employer.
Police electrocuted Kleymenov with a Taser on his head, arms, and legs during his detention, which resulted in bruises on his body and required immediate medical treatment, according to news reports, which stated that, after the journalist was treated at a hospital, he was taken back to police detention. On February 1, he was convicted of “participating in an unsanctioned event and interfering with the movement of transportation,” and sentenced to 10 days of arrest, according to reports.
Police held Pshenichny overnight; yesterday, a court found him guilty of participating in an unsanctioned event and sentenced him to eight days of detention, according to a Telegram post by Pravozashchita Otkrytki, an independent human rights group.
According to additional news reports and social media posts, journalists detained in St. Petersburg on January 31 included:
- Oleg Dilimbetov, correspondent with the business daily newspaper Kommersant
- Serafim Romanov and Denis Korotkov, correspondents with the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta
- Timur Hadjibekov, correspondent for the news websites MR7, Znak, and Baza
- Artyom Mazanov, editor at the independent news website TJ
- Anton Osherov, correspondent for the independent outlet Moloko Plus
- Valeriya Savinova, correspondent for the independent news website Severo-Zapad.MBKh Media
- Anastasiya Semenovich, correspondent for the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets
Police held Dilimbetov, Romanov, Korotkov, Semenovich, Savinova, and Osherov briefly and then released them without charge, according to news reports, a report by Savinova’s employer, and Moloko Plus managing editor Alexei Zhabin, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Police beat Hadjibekov with batons and electrocuted him with a Taser on his stomach and legs, and choked him with his coat, which resulted in bruising, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. He said police held him briefly and then released him without charge. Hadjibekov previously used the pseudonym “George Markov” for his work, he told CPJ.
Police detained Mazanov overnight, and released him yesterday after charging him with “violating the rules of a protest action,” according to his employer.
Also according to news reports, on January 31 police in other cities detained:
- Aleksandra Teplyakova and Daniil Kulikov, correspondents for the independent YouTube news channel RusNews, in the eastern city of Khabarovsk
- Roman Lazukov, correspondent with Novaya Gazeta, in Khabarovsk
- Yekaterina Ishchenko, correspondent for Sota.Vision in the eastern city of Vladivostok
- Svetlana Shishkanova, chief editor of the newspaper Batayskoye Vremya, in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don
- Makar Palamarenko, correspondent for the independent news website Donday in Rostov-on-Don
- Vladislav Petrov, correspondent for Sota.Vision in the northern city of Syktyvkar
- Elena Kostyuchenko, correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, in the southern city of Sochi
- Valeriya Zhitkova, correspondent for the independent news website The Bell, in Sochi
- Denis Adamov, chief editor of the independent news website Yakutia.Info, in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk
- Ruslan Rybakov, camera operator for the independent news website Prospekt Mira, in the eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk
- Dmitry Polushin, correspondent with the independent news website KrasNews, in Krasnoyarsk
Those journalists were detained briefly and then released without charge except for Lazukov, Teplyakova, Shishkanova, and Palamarenko, according to news reports as well as Obukhov, Yefremov, and Yekaterina Biyak, correspondent for the independent news website Activatica in Khabarovsk, all of whom spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Lazukov was charged with “participating in an unsanctioned event” and then released, according to news reports. Teplyakova remained in detention overnight, and yesterday a court found her guilty of participating in an unsanctioned event and sentenced her to nine days of detention, according to Biyak.
Shishkanova was convicted on the same charge and sentenced to 10 days of detention, according to news reports. Palamarenko was also convicted of participating in an unsanctioned event, fined 10,000 rubles (US$132), and released, according to reports.
Police detained Ishchenko twice, both times while she was conducting a live broadcast from the protest site in Vladivostok, and each time released her without charge; during the second detention, police held her for about seven hours, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app.
CPJ emailed the Russian Ministry of Internal affairs for comment, but did not receive any reply.