Berlin, March 29, 2022 – Russian authorities should drop all charges against journalist Gleb Sokolov and allow him and other journalists to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, March 29, law enforcement officers in Moscow detained Sokolov, a correspondent for the independent news website Sota.Vision, for allegedly failing to wear a press insignia while covering a protest in the city’s Red Square by a single man who held a pro-Ukraine poster, according to multiple posts on Telegram by his employer and Sota.Vision editor Aleksey Obukhov, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Authorities held Sokolov for about three hours and then released him after charging him with violating the established procedure for rallies on the grounds that, as he was allegedly not marked as a journalist, he was considered a participant in that protest, Obukhov said.
If convicted, Sokolov could face a fine of up to 20,000 rubles (about US$200), according to the Russian administrative code.
“Russian authorities should drop all their charges against Sota.Vision journalist Gleb Sokolov, and stop detaining and harassing members of the press,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “This is a crucial time for Russian journalists, who must be able to fulfill their professional duties and provide unbiased media coverage to the Russian people.”
Obukhov told CPJ that the charges against Sokolov were baseless, saying that the journalist was wearing a press badge while on assignment at the Red Square. He added that he was concerned that Sokolov’s detention showed that “journalists in Russia are now actually forbidden to cover events.”
Police previously detained Sokolov on February 25 and similarly charged him with violating protest-related laws over his coverage of an anti-war demonstration in Moscow; on March 7, a Moscow court convicted him on that charge and fined him 20,000 rubles, Obukhov said.
Sota.Vision is appealing that conviction, Obukhov told CPJ.
CPJ was unable to contact the Russian Interior Ministry or Investigative Committee for comment, as their websites did not load.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, CPJ has documented Russian authorities’ intensifying crackdown on the independent press, including on journalists working for Sota.Vision.