Paris, May 11, 2022 — Russian authorities should drop all charges and stop harassing seven Sota.Vision and Skat Media journalists and let the media work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
Between May 7 and May 9, amid Russia’s Victory Day celebrations, at least seven journalists were targeted by Russian authorities with home visits and searches, and detentions, according to news reports and editors at independent news website Sota.Vision and Skat Media, which is affiliated with the political movement Vesna. One of those journalists remained in detention as of Wednesday, May 11.
“This build-up of detentions and searches surrounding Russia’s Victory Day celebrations only demonstrates the authorities’ fear that independent media could capture actions critical of the war in Ukraine,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, from New York. “Russian authorities must stop harassing independent journalists and let them work freely.”
In the days leading up to May 9, police visited the homes of several Sota.Vision journalists to deliver a “warning” document, which discouraged them from taking part in the Victory Day celebrations, according to Sota.Vision editor Aleksei Obukhov, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
“Russian authorities were afraid that someone would organize a protest action on May 9 and that someone else would take pictures or write about such protest actions. That’s why they tried to isolate everyone under various pretexts,” Obukhov told CPJ. “Now, every so-called celebration will come along with things like this.”
Anna Loiko, Sota.Vision reporter
The Second Special Regiment, a special police unit designed to disperse rallies, arrested Loiko on May 7 next to her home in Moscow and detained her overnight, as her outlet reported. The officer in charge of internal affairs at the Khoroshevskiy police station, where Loiko was held, told Obukhov that the officers who detained Loiko said their purpose was to prevent the journalist from working on May 9.
Loiko’s lawyer was denied access to her 10-minute court hearing and on May 8, the journalist was charged with disobedience under Article 19.3 of the administrative code for allegedly refusing to show police her passport and was ordered by the court to be detained for five days. as Sota.Vision reported. Loiko’s lawyer told Sota.Vision that no one asked for her identification.
The Savyolovsky District Court of Moscow ruling, which the outlet published, contained falsified information, including the time and the reason for the detention, Obukhov told CPJ.
Viktoria Arefyeva, Sota.Vision reporter
On May 9, police in St. Petersburg refused to let Arefyeva cover the Victory Day parade, despite her accreditation, as her outlet reported. The police said she was on a special “list”; Federal Protective Service officers took her accreditation badge and refused to return it.
Arefyeva was held at Police Station No. 28 for over three hours before being released without explanation or charge, according to her outlet. “I did not understand what happened myself,” the police officer told her when she was released, according to Sota.Vision.
Yegor Shatov, Sota.Vision reporter
On May 9, Moscow police detained Shatov while he was filming a solitary anti-war picket, according to his outlet. Shatov was released about three hours later from Maryina Roshcha police station, located in the north of Moscow, without charge, under the condition that he would return if asked, Obukhov told CPJ.
Aleksandr Filippov, Sota.Vision reporter
On May 7, police came to Filippov’s apartment in Moscow on the grounds that his dog was barking too loudly and left shortly after, according to Obukhov. “We think that it was not a coincidence, as it happened just before May 9,” Obukhov told CPJ.
Angelina Roshchupko, Skat Media reporter
On May 8, law enforcement searched Roshchupko’s home in Moscow and detained her, according to her outlet and media reports. Authorities later charged Roshchupko under Article 239.3 of the criminal code for “participation in a non-profit organization infringing on people’s identity and rights.” If convicted, she faces up to two years’ imprisonment.
On May 10, the Basmanny District Court in Moscow imposed restrictions on Roshchupko for two months pending the investigation, according to media reports. She will not be allowed to leave her home between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., communicate with parties to her case, or send and receive “postal and telegraphic mail.” She is only allowed to use the internet and other means of communication for emergency services.
Skat Media chief editor Leo Giammer and deputy chief editor Nikita Stupin, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, said the investigator who searched Roshchupko’s apartment informed the journalist’s partner that the criminal proceedings were linked to Vesna and Skat Media.
Roshchupko’s lawyer told Skat Media that Roshchupko’s journalistic activity was “one of the major reasons” she was detained,Giammer and Stupin told CPJ. On April 25, Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Skat Media’s website without a court’s authorization and without entering the outlet into the register of banned materials, its editors told CPJ.
Yevgeny Zateyev, Skat Media reporter and regional coordinator for Vesna
On May 7, police searched Zateyev’s home in Saint Petersburg and took him to Moscow for questioning, according to his outlet. He was later charged under the same article, Article 239.3, and placed under detention until May 12.
On May 11, the Basmanny District Court in Moscow imposed restrictions on Zateyev, like those imposed on Roshchupko, until July 6 pending the investigation, according to reports. In addition, Zateyev will not be allowed to attend Vesna meetings during this time, according to those sources.
Several activists from Vesna were charged in the same case over the weekend, according to news reports. Vesna had planned a protest action on May 9 entitled “They did not fight for this,” according to news reports.
Darya Pak, Skat Media editor
On May 10, Moscow police came to the home of Pak, who is currently outside of Russia, and said she was a suspect in a criminal case but did not specify under which article, according to Skat Media.
CPJ could not contact the Russian Ministry of Interior as its website did not load.