Vilnius, Lithuania, March 25, 2021 — Russian authorities should not contest the appeal of journalist Mariya Nuykina and should stop prosecuting journalists covering political protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On March 19, police in the eastern city of Khabarovsk detained Nuykina, a correspondent with the independent newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti, while she was covering protesters detained at the local branch of the Investigative Committee, according to media reports and a statement by the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, an independent press freedom advocacy group of which Nuykina is a member.
The following day, a court convicted her of “failure to comply with police orders” stemming from her coverage of protests in support of the region’s former governor on December 26, 2020, and sentenced Nuykina to three days in jail, according to the same reports. She was released on March 22 after serving the full sentence, according to reports.
Nuykina told CPJ in a phone interview that this was the second time she had been jailed for covering the same protest. Authorities previously detained her on January 29, held her overnight, and the following day convicted her of “disturbing traffic” during that December 26 protest and sentenced her to one day in prison, she said.
Nuykina was technically released on January 30, but authorities immediately detained her yet again, then for allegedly illegally participating in a September 19, 2020, protest, she told CPJ. She was held overnight, and on February 1 a court fined her 10,000 rubles (US $131) for that offense, she said.
The journalist told CPJ that she plans to appeal her convictions, but added that she does not have much hope that her appeals will succeed. On March 12, a Khabarovsk court rejected her appeal concerning her detentions in January, but Nuykina told CPJ she would pursue her case to the national appeals court and to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Throwing a journalist in jail twice over covering the same protest, and repeatedly detaining and harassing her, is a new low even for Russian authorities,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities in Khabarovsk should not contest Mariya Nuykina’s appeal, and should stop prosecuting her and other journalists covering protests in the region.”
In a video posted after her March 20 hearing, Nuykina maintained her innocence, saying, “there were no police officers who allegedly gave me orders, hence I didn’t fail to comply with them.”
Galina Arapova, a media lawyer and director of the Mass Media Defense Center, an independent organization that offers legal defense to journalists, told CPJ via phone that Nuykina’s appeal, which would clear her criminal record of those charges, was not likely to succeed.
She noted, however, that Tatyana Khlestunova, another journalist from Khabarovsk who was jailed over her protest coverage, did successfully appeal her charges following her release.
When she covered the December 26 protests, Nuykina possessed an official press card and assignment sheet, according to the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers’ statement.
CPJ called the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Khabarovsk for comment, but no one answered.