Paris, April 13, 2023 – Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Roman Ivanov and stop harassing and prosecuting members of the press for their reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Wednesday, April 12, a court in the city of Korolyov ordered Roman Ivanov, a reporter with independent news website RusNews who had been arrested the previous day, to be detained until June 10 on three charges of spreading fake information about the Russian army, according to multiple news reports.
Ivanov denied the charges and said in court that he had been under pressure from the authorities since 2020 because of his work as a journalist. He faces up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted under Article 207.3.2.e of the criminal code, which bans disseminating false information on the basis of “political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred.”
Separately, on Tuesday, police in the southwestern city of Ufa in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan searched the editorial office of independent news website Prufy.ru and seized computer equipment, according to news reports and a report by the outlet.
“Roman Ivanov and the journalists of Prufy.ru are among the few independent voices remaining in Russia who are reporting truthfully about the situation in the country and the war it is waging against Ukraine. Their work is essential and should not be hindered,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release Ivanov, drop all charges against him, and let the media work freely and without fear of reprisal.”
Authorities opened three criminal cases against Ivanov for a post on the Russian social media platform Vkontakte and two war-related posts he made on a Telegram channel he manages named Chestnoe Korolyovskoe, according to multiple news reports. Chestnoe Korolyovskoe has 1,700 subscribers, according to CPJ’s review, and Ivanov posts local news, politics, and war-related topics.
Law enforcement officers in Korolyov detained Ivanov on Tuesday after breaking his apartment door down, searching his apartment, and confiscating his laptop, phones, and video cameras, according to multiple news reports, reports by RusNews, and the outlet’s chief editor Sergey Ainbinder, who spoke to CPJ via email. As of the evening of April 12, Ivanov’s reporting equipment had not been returned.
Authorities also questioned Ivanov’s wife, Maria Nekrasova, and made her sign a non-disclosure agreement, according to interviews with Nekrasova posted by RusNews and independent news website Activatica.
In September 2022, authorities detained Ivanov while he covered an anti-mobilization protest in Korolyov for seven days and fined him 13,000 rubles (US$224) for allegedly participating in the protest. A court in the Moscow region later overturned the fine, RusNews reported.
CPJ’s request for comment sent via email to the Russian Investigative Committee’s branch in Korolyov did not receive a reply.
Prufy.ru reported that its leadership believes the raid to be “politically motivated, as well as revenge for a number of investigations, which resulted in high-profile criminal cases,” as the search was conducted at the request of a member of the administration of the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan.
“We believe that certain government officials are using their position to put pressure on the media so that we cannot tell stories about government corruption and attempts to profit at the expense of the state,” the outlet said.
CPJ’s request for comment sent via email and messaging app to Prufy.ru and emails to the administration of the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Russian Investigative Committee’s branches in Bashkortostan did not receive a response.
At least 19 journalists were behind bars in Russia on December 1, 2022, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.