New York, October 23, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Russian court’s decision on Monday to detain U.S.-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva until December 5 on charges of failing to register herself as a foreign agent.
In a closed-door hearing on Monday, a court in the western Russian city of Kazan ordered Kurmasheva, an editor with the Tatar-Bashkir service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), to be detained until at least December 5. Kurmasheva denied the charges and will appeal the decision, according to media reports.
Kurmasheva, a dual citizen who lives in the Czech capital, Prague, was detained on October 18 on charges of failing to register herself as a foreign agent, for which the penalty is up to five years in prison, according to Russia’s Criminal Code.
“RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva’s arrest is the most egregious instance to date of the abusive use of Russia’s foreign agents’ legislation against independent press,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian authorities must immediately release Kurmasheva, drop all charges against her, and stop prosecuting journalists for their work.”
Since adopting the law in 2012, Russian authorities have labeled dozens of media outlets, including RFE/RL, and more than 100 journalists as foreign agents, compelling them to submit detailed reports on their activities and list their status whenever they produce content. Over 30 RFE/RL employees have been labeled as foreign agents in their personal capacity, according to RFE/RL. Kurmasheva is not among them but she has been charged with not registering as a foreign agent.
Kurmasheva traveled to Russia for a family emergency on May 20 and has been unable to leave the country since. She was temporarily detained at Kazan airport on June 2 before her return flight when authorities confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her 10,000 rubles (US$105) for failure to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities, according to a RFE/RL statement and media reports.
Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be held by Russia, after Russian authorities arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges in March this year.
Russia held at least 19 journalists in prison on December 1, 2022, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.