Paris, September 14, 2022 — In response to news reports that the Moscow city court on Wednesday closed the independent Russian Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union trade group at the request of Moscow’s prosecutor office, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for authorities to reverse their decision and to let the union work freely:
“With the closure of the Russian Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union, Russia has annihilated one of the last institutions protecting press freedom and defending journalists in the country. Russia has sent a clear signal of its intention to permanently ban independent journalism,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities must immediately reverse their decision, stop harassing the union members, and allow journalists and their defenders to work freely in the country.”
The prosecutor’s office alleged that the union violated trade association legislation because some members did not pay dues, and that members have been “repeatedly” prosecuted for participating in protests, including in support of journalist Ivan Safronov, who was sentenced to 22 years in jail this month, the reports said. The office also said the union collected funds in support of media outlets labeled as foreign agents, and “systematically” distributed forbidden content, reports said.
The union plans to appeal the decision, board member Andrei Jvirblis told CPJ via messaging app. CPJ called the press service of the Moscow prosecutor’s office but no one picked up the phone.
Founded after a 2016 attack on local and foreign journalists in Russia’s North Caucasus, the union has some 600 active members and defends labor rights, provides assistance to journalists, and supports press freedom in Russia. The union’s activities have been suspended since July, when prosecutors accused it of publishing “materials containing misleading information” about Russia’s war in Ukraine, as CPJ documented. The union was also fined 500,000 rubles (US$8,150) in August for allegedly discrediting the Russian army over publications on the union’s website related to the war, media reported