Police officers are seen in Moscow, Russia, on April 21, 2021. Police recently detained at least 10 journalists over their coverage of protests in the country. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

At least 10 journalists detained while covering pro-Navalny rallies in Russia

Vilnius, Lithuania, April 22, 2021 — Russian authorities should stop harassing journalists and allow members of the press to cover political demonstrations without fear, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, police detained at least 10 journalists and harassed several others in relation to their coverage of unauthorized protests in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which took place in dozens of cities throughout the country, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. At least 1,000 people were arrested nationwide in relation to those protests, according to news reports.

“Russian authorities should allow journalists to cover political protests freely and without fear that they will be detained, harassed, and intimidated by police,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Russian law enforcement should ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely, and not resort to detention and harassment to interfere with coverage of events of national interest.”

The following journalists were detained and then released without charge in relation to their coverage of protests in the country:

  • Police in the city of Kemerovo, in southwest Siberia, briefly detained Andrey Novashov, a reporter on assignment for Sibir.Realii, a Siberia-focused project run by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, according to news reports.
  • Police in the eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk briefly detained Igor Golyato, a correspondent with the independent news website MBX Media, according to news reports.
  • Police in the western city of Ufa detained Artyom Suponkin, a correspondent with the independent news website UFA1.RU, while he was on assignment and wearing a press vest, his employer reported.
  • Police in Makhachkala, the capital of the Republic in Dagestan, detained Yulia Suguyeva and Bariyat Idrisova, correspondents with the independent human rights news website Mediazona, who both showed authorities assignment sheets from their editors, according to news reports and a statement by the Union of Journalists of Russia.
  • Police in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, detained Gleb Merkin, a correspondent with the business daily Kommersant, while he was wearing a press vest; authorities released him after Kommersant contacted the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tatarstan, his employer reported.
  • Kazan police also detained Bulat Khairullin, a correspondent for the independent news website Sota.Vision, the union statement said.

Police in the southwestern city of Voronezh detained Sota.Vision correspondent Fyodor Orlov, while he possessed a press card and badge, according to reports. CPJ could not immediately determine whether he had been released as of today.

Authorities also detained and charged Valery Badmayev, editor-in-chief of news website Sovremennaya Kalmykiya, in Elista, the capital of the southern Republic of Kalmykiya, according to news reports. A local court charged him with inciting people to participate in an unsanctioned protest in a re-post on his Facebook account, and sentenced him to 40 hours of compulsory work, according to those reports, which said that the journalist maintained his innocence and would appeal.

Separately, in Vladimir, a city east of Moscow, police detained Ilya Kosygin, a correspondent with the independent news website Dovod, and a court charged him with illegally organizing a protest on April 6 near the jail where Navalny is imprisoned, according to news reports.

Police in Lyubertsy, a city near Moscow, also raided the apartment of Mediazona journalist Olya Romashova, news reports said, but did not detain or charge her.

Police in Saint Petersburg searched the apartment of Kseniya Klochkova, a correspondent with the independent news site Fontanka.ru, according to news reports. She was not detained or charged, but police said the search was part of an investigation into her alleged blocking of transport and obstruction of the movement of vehicles and pedestrians during a protest. If convicted of blocking transportation, according to Russia’s criminal code, she could face up to one year in prison.

Igor Iasine, co-director of the Russian Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, an independent trade group, told CPJ via messaging app that “it was surprisingly calm in Moscow but there were outrageous cases of pressure on journalists in [other] Russian regions and it cannot be tolerated.” 

CPJ called the Russian Ministry of Interior, but the officer on duty who answered the phone said that officials had no comment.