Police officers are seen in Russia's Kemerovo region on November 25, 2021. Journalist Andrei Novashov was recently detained in Kemerovo and charged under new legislation banning "fake" information about Russia's war in Ukraine. (Alexander Patrin/AFP)

Russian journalist Andrey Novashov detained, charged with spreading ‘fake’ information

Berlin, March 22, 2022 — Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Andrey Novashov, drop all charges against him, and refrain from threatening journalists with prison over their work and commentary, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On Monday, March 21, authorities in the Siberian region of Kemerovo detained Novashov, a reporter with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster RFE/RL’s project Sibir.Realii, and charged him with distributing “fake” information, according to a report by RFE/RL and a copy of his charge sheet shared online by Net Freedoms Project, a legal aid organization.

According to that charge sheet, the case against Novashov stems from a March 10 post he published on the Russian social media network VKontakte, in which he shared an eyewitness account of Russian attacks and the siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which had previously been posted on Facebook by a journalist in Mariupol.

If convicted of spreading “fakes” about Russia’s military, Novashov could face up to 15 years in prison under legislation passed earlier this month. That RFE/RL report said the journalist is being held in a temporary detention center.

“Russian authorities must release journalist Andrey Novashov at once and drop all the charges against him,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “While Russian authorities are waging a war on Ukraine, they are also waging an information war against their own people by silencing dissenting voices, including those of journalists.”

On his VKontakte page, Novashov frequently shares news and commentary about Russian politics and the war in Ukraine. His March 10 post has about 580 views. At Sibir.Realii, Novashov has covered local news in Kemerovo, including protests against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing police crackdown.

CPJ emailed the Kemerovo regional prosecutor’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.

Separately, on March 18, Russian authorities questioned Sever.Realii reporter Svetlana Prokopyeva, a recipient of CPJ’s 2020 International Press Freedom Award, according to a report by RFE/RL, which said she is a witness in a libel case against the governor of the Pskov region.

Another RFE/RL report states that authorities in Kaliningrad summoned Yulia Paramonova to the local prosecutor’s office for questioning about her work with the RFE/RL affiliate Sever.Realii, including about its status as a “foreign agent.”

[Editors’ note: The spelling of Andrey Novashov’s name has been changed throughout to reflect the journalist’s preferred usage, and this text has been changed in its eighth paragrah to correct the name of Prokopyeva’s outlet.]