Paris, January 25, 2023 — Russian authorities should immediately release journalists Ilya Makarov and Maksim Litvinchuk and let all members of the press work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On January 19, police in Moscow detained the two reporters for the independent online outlet Sota.Vision while they reported on a local government meeting, according to multiple media reports and reports by Sota.Vision.
Authorities accused the journalists of disrupting the meeting and charged them with disorderly conduct. On January 20, a Moscow court ordered them both to be detained for 15 days, the maximum penalty under the Russian administrative code.
“Ilya Makarov and Maksim Litvinchuk, two of the few remaining independent journalists in Russia, were arrested simply for doing their jobs and trying to cover an event of public interest,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release them, and let all members of the press work freely.”
Makarov and Litvinchuk planned to cover the first public meeting of the year of the council of deputies of Moscow’s Tverskoy district, but attendees of that meeting denied the journalists’ entry to the room where it was being held, despite the reporters showing their press cards and editorial assignments, according to those news reports.
The journalists called the police, who arrived and then arrested Makarov and Litvinchuk for allegedly shouting and attempting to break into the meeting through a door and window, according to Sota.Vision. The journalists denied those allegations and said they were only trying to film the meeting from outside the window.
Another local resident was also denied access to the meeting and authorities ordered her to be detained for 12 days, Sota.Vision reported.
CPJ emailed the Tverskoy district council and called the Tverskoy department of the Russian Interior Ministry for comment, but did not receive immediately receive any replies.