Paris, September 26, 2022—Russian authorities must allow the media to report freely on protests against the country’s call-up of reservists to bolster its forces in Ukraine and stop using the threat of conscription against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
At least three journalists were arrested, at least 16 more were detained, at least three face various charges, and at least two were served military summonses while covering protests spreading across Russia since President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of military reservists on Wednesday, September 21.
The summonses are used to order Russian citizens to report to a military registration office to provide documents for a process that could lead to their being drafted into the army. Citizens can be summonsed to clarify military registration data, undergo a medical examination, or sign a military service contract. Mobilization is not necessarily immediate or certain, according to media reports and human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, but those who fail to appear can face fines or imprisonment of up to two years.
“Russia’s latest crackdown on independent journalists is another step in its efforts to silence dissenting voices on its war in Ukraine,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “It is especially egregious that authorities are wielding the threat of conscription against reporters who are doing their jobs covering the protests. The government must stop issuing these summonses, immediately release journalists detained while covering anti-mobilization protests, and drop all charges against them.”
- On Wednesday, September 21, in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, a police officer detained Yekaterina Parfenova, a reporter with independent online outlet SOTA, ripped her jacket, took her press card, and tried to take her phone, her outlet reported. She was released later in the evening.
- Andrey Kichyov, a reporter with independent news website RusNews, also was detained on Wednesday, September 21, in Arkhangelsk as he was about to cover the protest, media reported. He was released later that day after being charged with discrediting the Russian military over a May 1 social media post. If found guilty, he faces a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (US$860), according to the Russian administrative code. On Saturday, September 24, Kichyov was detained again as he was about to cover another protest in Arkhangelsk and served with a summons to appear at a military enlistment office.
In addition, Kichyov was expelled from college on Monday, September 26, for not attending lessons in patriotism recently introduced in Russian schools, RusNews journalist Irina Salomatova told CPJ via messaging app. Kichyov believed his expulsion was tied to his coverage of anti-mobilization protests, according to his outlet. As a student, he was protected from military service, but his expulsion means he can be drafted, Salomatova told CPJ.
- Roman Ivanov, another RusNews reporter, was detained overnight at a police station on Wednesday, September 21, while covering a protest in Korolyov, in the Moscow area, and charged with disobeying police and participating in a protest, according to his outlet and Salomatova. Salomatova told CPJ that on Friday, September 23, a Korolyov court ordered Ivanov to be detained for seven days and fined him 13,000 rubles (US$224).
- In Moscow, police officers hit freelance journalist Denis Lipa in the stomach while detaining him on Wednesday, September 21, he told human-rights news website OVD-Info. Police claimed that Lipa kicked a law enforcement officer and threatened to cause him problems with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Lipa said. CPJ has been unable to locate Lipa’s contact information to determine whether Lipa was at the protest as a journalist or participant and whether he remained in detention.
- In the western city of Perm, Yuri Kuroptev, a journalist with local independent news website Zvezda was detained on Wednesday, September 21, while covering a protest and released later that day, his outlet reported and Stepan Khlopov, Zvezda editor-in-chief, told CPJ via messaging app.
- In the western city of Vladimir, police detained on Wednesday, September 21, Natalia Baranova, a reporter with local independent news website Tomiks. Baranova had a press card and was wearing a press vest. She was released later in the day, according to news reports.
- Reporter Artyom Krieger was on assignment livestreaming for independent online outlet Sota.Vision in Moscow with his press card and a press vest when police detained him on Wednesday, September 21, his outlet reported. He was charged with “participating in a demonstration that caused obstruction” and served with a summons to appear at a military enlistment office to confirm his personal information, Sota.Vision said.
On Thursday, September 22, as he was being taken to court, Krieger told independent television broadcaster Dozhd during a live interview that all the men detained with him were issued similar summonses. Krieger was released that evening, Sota.Vision founder Aleksandra Ageyeva told CPJ via email. On Friday, September 23, a court in Moscow ordered that Krieger be detained for eight days, Ageyeva and his outlet said.
- Also on Wednesday, September 21, Sota.Vision reporters Nailya Mullayeva and Fyodor Orlov, were detained in the western city of Kazan and southwestern city of Voronezh, respectively, while covering the protest, the outlet said. Ageyeva told CPJ that Mullayeva was released on Thursday, September 22, but that a court in Voronezh ordered Orlov to be held for 15 days for “participating in a demonstration that caused obstruction” on Friday, September 23. Mullayeva was charged with participating in a protest but did not specify what penalties she is facing, Ageyeva said.
- Boris Zhirnov, another Sota.Vision reporter, was detained on Thursday, September 22, in the southeastern city of Khabarovsk, as he was filming the activity in the city center, his outlet reported. Ageyeva told CPJ that Zhirnov was released later that day and charged with participating in a protest. She did not specify what penalties Zhirnov is facing.
- On Friday, September 23, police in Moscow detained Kseniya Khabibulina, a reporter with independent Telegram channel Baza, while she was interviewing young people who had been summonsed to a military recruitment center, Baza reported and its editor Aleksandr Potapov told CPJ via messaging app. Khabibulina was released without charge later that day, Potapov said.
- Separately, on Friday, September 23, police in St. Petersburg forced SOTA journalist Pyotr Ivanov to leave a demonstration in support of so-called referendums on joining Russia in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” his outlet reported. SOTA editor Aleksei Obukhov told CPJ via messaging app that Ivanov was doing fine after the incident.
- CPJ is investigating multiple news reports that at least six other journalists covering demonstrations or planning to do so were detained on Saturday, September 24, and two more covering protests in Makhachkala, capital of Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan, were detained on Monday, September 26. SOTA journalist Viktoria Arefyeva was detained for 48 hours, had her home searched and her technical equipment seized, was named a suspect in a criminal case, and then released on Monday, September 26, according to her outlet and Obukhov. Her outlet believes that it was to prevent her from covering the Saturday, September 24, protest.
CPJ was unable to contact the Russian Interior Ministry for comment because its website did not load.