RusNews reporter Roman Ivanov walks into a court in Korolyov, Russia on April 12, 2023. The court ordered he be detained until June 10 on three charges of spreading fake information about the Russian army.
RusNews reporter Roman Ivanov walks into a court in Korolyov, Russia on April 12, 2023. He was sentenced to seven years in jail on March 6, 2024, over three social media posts about the war in Ukraine. (Screenshot: RusNews/YouTube)

Russian journalist Roman Ivanov sentenced to 7 years for ‘fake news’ about army

New York, March 7, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday condemned the seven-year sentence issued to journalist Roman Ivanov over his social media posts about the Russian army and called on authorities to release him immediately and drop all charges against him.

On Wednesday, a court in the city of Korolyov, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of Moscow, convicted Ivanov, a reporter with the independent news website RusNews who also managed the Telegram channel Chestnoe Korolyovskoe, on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army, according to multiple media reports. Ivanov was sentenced to seven years in prison, although prosecutors had requested eight years.

RusNews chief editor Sergey Aynbinder told CPJ that the journalist, who has previously denied the charges and said he was simply doing his job, planned to appeal the verdict.

“By sentencing journalist Roman Ivanov to seven years in prison, Russian authorities are punishing him for publishing information about Russia’s war in Ukraine that differed from the official narrative,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “Authorities should not contest Ivanov’s appeal, drop all the charges against him, and stop jailing independent voices.”

Ivanov was arrested in April 2023 over a post he made on the Russian social media platform Vkontakte about a United Nations report about Russian war crimes in Ukraine and two posts on Telegram about the Bucha massacre of civilians and Russian missile attacks in Ukraine.

Ivanov is the second RusNews journalist to be jailed for spreading “fake news” about the Russian army. His colleague Maria Ponomarenko was given a six-year sentence on the same charges in February 2023. She is also being tried in a second criminal case on allegations of using violence against prison staff, for which she could face an addition five years in jail.

In March 2022, following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian parliamentarians changed the law to impose prison terms and fines for discrediting the country’s military or spreading “fake” information about it.

A third RusNews reporter, Igor Kuznetsov, who has been in detention since September 2021, is on trial for participating in an extremist group, for which Russian prosecutors have requested a four-and-a-half year prison sentence. Separately, he has been charged with inciting mass disturbances in group chats on Telegram, for which he could be sentenced to 10 years in jail.  

Russia was the world’s fourth worst jailer of journalists—with 22 behind bars—on December 1, 2023, when CPJ conducted its latest annual prison census. Six of them, including Ivanov and Ponomarenkko, were held on charges of spreading so-called false information about the Russian army.

CPJ’s email to the Korolyov City Court requesting comment on Ivanov’s sentence did not receive any response.